Cover Letter Etiquette

You’ve found your dream job, you know it’s perfect for you, and you know that you are the best candidate for the position. All you need to do now is convince your potential new employer. Your cover letter is your first tool to convey your suitability for the position to the job advertiser, and cover letter etiquette is a key component in making your cover letter really work for you.

As a job seeker you will no doubt be competing against other candidates who also believe that they are the best person for the role. Your cover letter must stand out from your competitors, must attract your potential new employer’s attention and must persuade the advertiser to progress your application to the interview stage.

The first rule of cover letter etiquette is to always write a cover letter. Some applications will state that a cover letter is optional; however if you wish to make an excellent first impression your well written cover letter is the perfect device to ensure your application has the necessary added extra to increase your chances of success. In this case, the cover letter is not optional – it is essential.

The second rule to address is how to address your letter. The salutation is important. If the application instructions state the name of the person who will receive the cover letter, then you must use this person’s name at the head of the letter. If no specific person is named it may be possible to use the internet to research the company or to perhaps call the company and ask the receptionist. Keep the salutation professional – use “Dear Mr Smith” instead of “Hi John”. If you do not have a specific name to use, it is acceptable to address your cover letter as “To Whom It May Concern”.

Continuing with your cover letter, remember to keep your writing style professional and concise. Your letter is your first introduction to your prospective employer of you as a person and the image you wish to convey is of an employee who is respectful, courteous and competent. Keep to the subject and ensure your letter flows naturally and focuses on the employer’s requirements and your suitability for the advertised position.

Always proofread your cover letter (get samples here), or better yet have a friend or colleague read through it for you. There is nothing more disappointing to a future employer than to read a cover letter from a candidate that contains numerous unchecked spelling and grammatical errors. This conveys the sense that the writer just does not care and no employer wishes to hire a candidate that does not care.

Finally, to complete your cover letter, sign off in a formal and professional manner. It is polite to end your letter with a short sentence such as “Thank you for your time and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my suitability for this role with you.” You may then finish with “Yours sincerely” or “Yours faithfully” and your full name.

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