Reading: / Matching Information / Part 3

6 Rules for writing a successful cover letter

The first rule of most job applications is simple –never send your CV without a cover letter. Without it, your application will seem unprofessional and unprepared, and equally importantly, you will miss out on an opportunity to start ‘selling’ your abilities and qualifications to the potential employer.

Rule #2

When starting your cover letter, it is important to address it to a named individual rather than a general salutation like ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. It is, of course, very important that your cover letter is tailored specifically for the position you are applying for – sending an almost identical cover letter and CV to 10 employers is less likely to success than specifically targeting 2 or 3 and adapting your application to highlight the key features you feel are most relevant for the position.

Rule #3

From there, the next step is the first paragraph, and this is the point at which employers often make the crucial decision whether to consider your application or reject it. Avoid beginning with a standard, non-specific phrase such as ‘I am writing with regard the position advertised in…’; instead, try to be a little more dynamic – ‘My experience in the service industry offers much to a company that seeks motivated individuals in its employment, and am eager to put my solid education to work in a position such as the one you advertised in ..’. Obvious statements such as ‘Please find my CV enclosed’ written in a cover letter should also be avoided – the potential employer will be well aware of what has been enclosed. In total, the cover letter should never spill on to a second page – if it does, then you haven’t been succinct enough.

Rule #4
In your letter, your aim should be to highlight the areas in which the company would benefit from having you as an employee; make sure that you don’t make the mistake of writing about how the job would be of benefit to you. For example, ‘I feel that working for such a dynamic company would suit my personality’ would be better phrased as ‘I feel that I could contribute to such a dynamic company.’

Rule #5

Other points to bear in mind about your letter are that you should always avoid negativity in any form, and make sure you have included a number of ways that the employer can contact you, even if that same information is on your CV. The more work you make the employer do to offer you the job, the less inclined they may be to actually offer it. When you have finished your cover letter, read it again carefully (ideally, ask a friend to read it as you might not notice typographical or grammatical errors you have made). Once that’s done, make sure that you sign the letter by hand, preferably in blue ink to stand out from darker, printed text.

Rule #6

The final point is that if you are serious about applying for the position and are keen to get an interview, you should take the initiative in your letter and tell the employer that you will follow up. Opinions vary, but it is generally acceptable to call 3 days after sending the CV, without necessarily waiting for the closing date for applications.

Questions 1-7

For which rules are the following statements true?

Write the correct letter A-F in boxes 1 - 7 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

  1. Rule #1
  2. Rule #2
  3. Rule #3
  4. Rule #4
  5. Rule #5
  6. Rule #6


      1.Simplify for the employer

      2.Don’t use redundant phrases

      3.Avoid generalizations

      4.Highlight your abilities to your employer.

      5.Focus on the employer

      6.Add a personal touch

      7.Keep it concise