The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you're applying to.
Dear Mr Brown,
I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information.
As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team.
I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I'm flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I'm keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name].
I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities.
3. Letter for creative jobs
We've used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you're not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they'll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it's a false economy, unless you're 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you'd like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you'll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn't come into it!
With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
•How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
•Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
•Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
•School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
•How to write a personal statement for your CV
•CV templates to fit every stage of your career
Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs or sign up to Guardian Careers for the latest job vacancies and career advice
Email Cover Letter Sample and Tips
Writing a hard copy cover letter is becoming less of the norm these days. This is because, more than ever, people are sending job application materials through job websites or via email. This includes submitting resumes and cover letters online.
When asked to submit your job materials (such as your resume and any other related documents) as an email attachment, the email itself acts as your cover letter.
See below for an example of an email cover letter, and tips for how to write it and what to include your message. Here are some tips on how to write and send a quality email cover letter.
Use a Professional Email Address
First, before you start drafting your letter, make sure your email address is professional. Along with the subject line, your email address is the first thing the employer will see – it is your first impression.
If you are using an informal address that you created years ago like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, it may be a good idea to open a new account specifically for communication between you and hiring companies. Get a new professional address that includes your first and last name, if possible.
State Your Name and the Job in the Subject
In the subject line of the email, clearly state the position you are applying for and also include your name. This way, the hiring manager will know, at a glance, that you are writing to apply for a job.
With a clear subject line, the employer is more likely to read the email. Also be sure to proofread your subject line before sending the email – a typo in the subject line is not a good first impression, and might lead to your email being deleted!
Start With a Greeting
If possible, greet a particular person in your letter.
Figuring out the recipient may be as easy as reading the name on the email address in which you are sending your resume. If it isn’t that obvious, double check the job listing to see if a name is mentioned. You can also check the company website (see if there is a directory or list of staff members), or call the company and ask the administrative assistant for help. If none of this works, you can use a greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager.”
What to Include in the Email Message
An email cover letter includes pretty much the same content as a hard copy cover letter, with a few optional additions. Start your letter by expressing your interest in the job opening, and mention the job title by name. Follow this with some of your previous experience that will show the reader that you are qualified for the position.
Focus on specific examples when explaining that you have certain qualities or skills. Make sure all of the information you include is directly related to the job for which you are applying. Do not be afraid to brag a little bit about your accomplishments; this is the time to “sell” yourself to them.
A benefit to sending your cover letter by email is the ability to attach URLs within the body of your message.
For example, if you are applying for a technology driven position like a web designer, freelance writer, or software developer, you can insert links to work you have done in the past. Nothing shows what a good fit you will be for the job like real life examples of what you can do.
Close With a Thank You and Signature
Finally, close your email cover letter with a thank you and express your readiness to meet the hiring manager in person for an interview. You might also want to add that your resume is attached to the email (if this is the case).
Then, include a closing (such as “Best” or “Sincerely”) and your full name. Underneath your name, include an email signature. This is something you can set up on your email account. It appears at the bottom of every email you send, and includes important contact details, such as your email address and phone number.
It might also include your full address, employment information, or a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Attach Your Resume (Unless Told Otherwise)
Attach your resume to your email message in the format requested by the employer. If a specific format isn't required, send it as a PDF or Word document. Of course, do not do this if the employer specifically tells you to submit your resume in some other way (such as through a website or via mail).
Sample Email Cover Letter With Resume Attached
Subject Line of Email Message: Communications Director Position - Your Name
Dear Hiring Manager,
I read your job posting for a Communications Director with interest. I am confident that my ten years of experience in communications in both the private and public sector make me an ideal fit for the position.
In my position as Communications Director for XYZ Company, I wrote articles for the company website, managed guest author submissions, and wrote and sent a weekly email newsletter to subscribers. I received consistent praise from the director for my attention to detail and clear, straightforward writing style.
While Assistant Communications Director for Assemblyperson Susan Smith, I researched, drafted and amended legislation, wrote press releases, and was responsible for office communications and correspondence.
I also have extensive experience writing on a freelance basis on labor issues, which, I believe, would be an ideal match for this position. Articles are available for your review at:
Additional writing samples and my resume are attached. If I can provide you with any further information on my background and qualifications, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.