How to write an engaging cover letter for your CV

Finding and customising the perfect CV template is not the only route to an interview and although not everyone feels the need to attach a cover letter to their application, its benefit to your overall success could be huge.

When faced with so many other applicants who also have the right skills and experience for the job, you just might need that extra push to get you over the finish line.

Writing a cover letter directly to the hiring manager means it has to be engaging, thoughtful, passionate and honest. This is not an easy task, and if you get it wrong you could actually decrease your chances of an interview, leaving your CV better off on its own.

If you want to know how to write an engaging cover letter, this article will help you to:

  • Know who to address the cover letter to
  • Correctly format your cover letter
  • Know what to include
  • Use the correct length

A well written cover letter could be the key to gaining that all important interview, but it has to be engaging and grab the reader’s attention immediately. Here’s our guide on how to write an engaging cover letter to attach to your CV:

Who would I address my cover letter to?

A cover letter is all about making your application more personable whilst remaining professional, and it should be written directly to the person in charge of hiring for the position. You may find that person’s name has been given on the job advert, but if not you can address it to the “HR Manager”.

You could also consider contacting the company to ask who the correct person is, if you want to address it to them personally. This would always be a better way to address your cover letter as it shows you have taken the time to engage personally with the right person.

How do I format my cover letter – what should I include?

A cover letter is designed to be a formal document, so you should write your name and address and also the date on the top right. The manager’s name and address should be directly below and to the left of your letter. Start with, ‘Dear…’ and end with, ‘Yours sincerely’. If you decide to go with ‘To the HR manager…’ then you would need to finish the cover letter with, ‘Yours faithfully’.

A cover letter would typically be around 3 paragraphs.

  1. The first paragraph should explain the position you are applying for (include title), where you found out about the job, and why you are applying. The first paragraph is extremely important as you want to instantly engage with the reader and grab their attention. Ensure you are enthusiastic about the role and the reason as to why you feel you are the right person for the job.
  2. The second paragraph should go into a little more detail as to the skills, experience and qualifications you have which align with the job and how they would be of benefit to the role and the company. Remain passionate and enthusiastic about what you have to offer and the relevant achievements you have to date.
  3. The final paragraph can be a closing statement thanking them for their time, and to confirm how they can get hold of you and that you are looking forward to hearing back from them. Include a contact number and email address, ensuring you use a professional address (typically your name) and a telephone number that you can either answer instantly, or you can set up a voice mail to respond when you can – in case you are at work during the day.

Take note of any particular instructions that the job advert lays out in regards to how they get back to any potential candidates for an interview, so you can align your cover letter with those instructions.

What about font style, size, margins and length?

Use a simple, professional font – you can of course use the same font as your CV to keep everything consistent. The font must be easy to read and navigate, with the usual standard size of around 11-12. Depending on the font, make sure you are happy that the font style and size is not just easy to read, but is easy for the reader to navigate the cover letter.

Adequate spacing should be applied between your 3-4 paragraphs, and a sensible format will be just fine – not too close to the end of the paper, and not too far away that you are not able to get many words on each line. A total length of 3-4 paragraphs is more than enough, which would take up just one page of A4 paper.

A cover letter could use more than one space if necessary between each paragraph, however this would depend on how much content you have. After you have written your letter, print it off and take a look at the margins and the spacing. Do the contents align perfectly in the centre of the page, or do you have too much space at the top or the bottom?

The cover letter needs to flow nicely, so consider how many spaces you need to fill it out to the one page of A4. This doesn’t mean to say that you write very little and expand it with spaces, but you certainly should take great care with how it sits on the page.

A cover letter should not be lengthy, and by using just 3 paragraphs you should easily be able to create a letter that is simple and easy to read; not too long and not too short; gets straight to the point and is completely relevant to the job advert.

Cover letter examples:

All of the above examples are provided by Kent University, with the links opening in a new window.

You may also like: How to write a winning cover letter – what to include

About Martin Carline

Martin has been a senior manager of a large customer service team within the education services industry, dealing with all aspects of staff recruitment and management. He now authors and manages content for CV Template Master and a number of other leading websites. In his spare time, Martin is an accomplished pianist and teaches all styles with a particular focus on boogie woogie and blues.

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