How to write an excellent cover letter for a CV

How to write an excellent cover letter for a CV

To be able to write an excellent cover letter or motivational letter is as important as having a top-notch CV. 

Did you know that recruiters and employers decide within five to seven seconds of glancing through a CV to reject or investigate the contents further?

Research indicates that often employers and recruiters don’t get as far as examining a CV, having discarded a too-short, hastily written cover letter or a lengthy, boringly worded motivation within those first vital few seconds.

Here are some general guidelines on how to write an excellent covering letter. 

Steps to crafting a perfect cover letter:

Salutation

Avoid using gender or time-specific greetings. “Good morning” or “Dear Sirs” should be replaced with “Good day” or “To whom it may concern”.

Introductory first paragraph

The introductory first paragraph should outline the job for which you are applying:

I would like to apply for the role of Work-from-Home CSI Manager as advertised on your website.

That’s the easy part. You now need an attention grabber to keep the recruiter reading. He/she has probably been flooded with applications and will quickly dismiss motivational letters with complicated wording in which the skills pertaining to the job are not easily and instantly identifiable.

Identify which skills are most important to the employer from the job specification and then highlight these skills in your motivational covering letter. You must be able to demonstrate how you can offer the skills required in a compelling manner. 

Keep the recruiter reading

The inherent job requirements are the key to success here.

Carefully read through the job description, and you will quickly identify the main inherent job requirements. You should then be able to offer an immediate solution to the recruitment ‘problem’ by giving a fact-based response which clearly demonstrates your skills match to their job requirements. Write your cover letter as if responding or ‘answering’ these requirements.

My Curriculum Vitae has been attached for your perusal and goes into greater detail, but I would like to focus your attention on my skills and qualifications. I believe that I am suited to this position as:

  • I completed my B Com – Marketing & Communications Management (Hons) at the University of South Africa in 1997
  • I have 12 years’ experience managing the CSI arm of a well-known retail group
  • I have a fully-functional home office set-up and reliable network connection, equipping me to work from home and meet deadlines in a reliable fashion

Should you add a photograph to a CV or cover letter? 

Should you or should you not add a photo to a CV or covering letter? If required, or if you decide to do so, ensure that the photo is a professional formal ‘head and shoulders’ only, in formal attire. At RecruitMyMom we removed the ability to add a photograph as unconscious bias plays a very big role in people's decision making. We believe people should have the opportunity to go for an interview based on the merits of their skills and experience, removing opportunities up front for unconscious bias. 

How to write, format and style a covering letter

  • Covering letters should be short. If you cannot communicate why you should be hired in a short impactful manner, you can lose out on a job opportunity.  
  • Paragraphs should be short and punchy.
  • Stick to facts, using demonstrable examples of specific key skills, qualifications or competency which are in line with what they are looking for. Give tangible proof using examples of your key skills. Example: The quality of my output and dedication to my work is best demonstrated by my increasing the loyalty of our customer base directly through focused CSI initiatives, as measured by KPA’s such as basket size and return visits, by 260% in the past fiscal year
  • Information should be relevant and succinct. Remember, a covering letter is there to introduce yourself and give a peek at your suitability as a candidate, so that employers are readily inclined to examine your CV in more detail.
  • Don’t use graphics, pictures or different colours – keep it formal and focused on content.  If you are – for example, a graphic designer and are aiming to impress, this should be confined to a link in your portfolio, and not included in your covering letter.
  • Check and re-check spelling and grammar. If possible, ask a trusted third party to check that there are no errors.

How to end your covering letter

End the cover letter on a note of confidence as to your suitability for the position.

I am confident that my skills match those required and would love to be afforded the opportunity to meet with you in person.

I trust that this application will meet with your favourable response.

 

Here is an example of an excellent covering letter:

Good day

I would like to apply for the role of Work-from-Home CSI Manager as advertised on your website.

My Curriculum Vitae has been attached for your perusal and goes into greater detail, but I would like to focus your attention on my skills and qualifications. I believe that I am suited to this position as:

  • I completed my B Com – Marketing & Communications Management (Hons) at the University of South Africa in 1997
  • I have 12 years’ experience managing the CSI arm of a well-known retail group
  • I have a fully-functional home office set-up and reliable network connection, equipping me to work from home and meet deadlines in a reliable fashion
  • The quality of my output and dedication to my work is best demonstrated by my increasing the loyalty of our customer base directly through focused CSI initiatives, as measured by KPA’s such as basket size and return visits, by 260% in the past fiscal year

I am confident that my skills match those required and would love to be afforded the opportunity to meet with you in person.

I trust that this application will meet with your favourable response.

Yours truly,

Jane Soap

5 Things not to do on a covering letter

A covering letter is there to explain why you are suitable for the role, and not why you are desperate for the position.

  1. Do not divulge too much about your personal situation. You may just put the employer off by your personal circumstances. 
  2. Do not beg for a job. 
  3. Do not omit to complete a covering letter. 
  4. Do not explain why you need flexibility in the covering letter. 
  5. Do not make spelling or grammar mistakes. 

In order to grab the interest of the recruiter and employer, an excellent, motivating cover letter is essential to creating the best first impression. This will give your CV a far higher chance of being read. Having been in recruitment for many years, we can guarantee that a high quality covering letter can make all the difference in getting you employed. 


Ready to apply for the job of your dreams? Register on our award-winning recruitment site and fill in your detailed CV. When applying for positions, you will be given the opportunity to compose your perfect motivational cover letter for prospective employers.

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