How to write a compelling cover letter

Cv expert Emma Alkirwi, aka CV Guru, has some advice for how to ensure your cover letter has the greatest chances of delivering.

Laptop with CV on it depicting job search


There has been a lot of focus lately about helping older workers who have had a career break to get back to work. It can be daunting after a while out of the workplace or even after years have passed since you last applied for a job to sit down and put together a job application. It’s not just the cv that matters, but also the covering letter. The majority of recruiters will also expect a cover letter.

A cover letter is designed to complement your CV and is your opportunity to expand on your experience and achievements, says cv expert Emma Alkirwi. Here she outlines what will help your cover letter to have the highest chance of success.

An attention-grabbing cover letter needs to be much more than a copy and paste of a new company name at the top of a generic letter. It needs to give an employer a real insight into who you are and be tailored to the requirements of each position, to place you as the perfect candidate and get you fast-tracked to the interview stage.

If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some tips on how to write an attention-grabbing cover letter.

Keep it short

Try to make sure that your cover letter is no more than one A4 page in length. We know that it’s hard – especially when you have a lot of experience under your belt! But your cover letter is an opportunity to go into more detail about the key points you have raised in your CV, rather than being a way of supplying a comprehensive work history to an employer.

Split your cover letter into 4-5 paragraphs:

 An introductory paragraph
 2-3 paragraphs to talk about how you are suited to the job
 A paragraph to wrap up your letter.

The easiest way to do this is to make a plan. Create a bullet point list of everything you want to include, and then start writing from there.

Once you get to your interview, you will have ample opportunity to share even more about your previous roles, and how they will help you in the job you want to secure.

Do your research

One of the key ways to make yourself stand out as a candidate is to show you already have a real interest in the company’s wider vision and goals. Showing your enthusiasm and excitement for the role in a more specific way helps you stand out!

Take some time to research the mission and work of the business, the competitive landscape, and any recent news or developments. Pick out the key points from this research that you connect with, your interests and experience, to show why you want to be involved.

Keep this part of your cover letter short. You should only mention this in either your introduction or in direct relation to your skills.

Expand on your CV

Your cover letter provides the perfect opportunity to give more detail about the information you mention in your CV.

As with your CV, use the job description to determine the key skills that the employer is looking for, and tie them back to examples of your own experience. Statistics are particularly powerful, so use them as much as possible – being vague doesn’t help you stand out.

Use your cover letter to talk about your passion for the work you do, and share some of the lessons you have learned along the way. If the job description mentions qualifications that you have, talk about them here and what completing them has taught you.

One final point: the easiest way to attract attention from recruiters is to project confidence throughout your cover letter. The more you believe in yourself and your abilities, the more a prospective employer will too!

Allow time for edits

Make sure you plan your time effectively to allow for edits to your cover letter. Keep the job description beside you, then go through each line of your cover letter to evaluate how relevant each of the details you have included is. Make sure you only lead with your strongest examples – otherwise they can get lost in a sea of information.

You should also proof-read your cover letter before you send it and makes sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Spelling the company name wrong will attract the wrong kind of attention!

*Emma Alkirwi is the Managing Director of the CV Guru which is a leading service provider of professionally written CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, cover letters in the UK and they also provide specialist consultancy services. If you are finding your job hunt a bit overwhelming, outsourcing your application documents to a professional can help lighten the load, and free up your time so you can focus on finding the right position for you. The CV Guru can help prepare a cover letter for you based on your experience in your industry or profession or create one directly for a particular role you are interested in. 

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