As with CVs, there is no objectively correct way in which to structure cover letters. Some firms may set word or character limits. Others may simply ask you to attach a separate document.
Cover letters for established graduate schemes at large City firms should probably include an overview of your reasons for making the application and an insight into why you believe you are a suitable candidate. Cover letters for other types of roles may require greater emphasis on your competencies. Research into what is expected for the particular role for which you are applying.
Bear in mind that making speculative applications for casual work experience can call for a very different technique than that required when making full-time job applications. For example, if you are applying for experience at a small high street firm, you will not necessarily need to spend ages distinguishing it from similar employers in the same street. Approach your application from the basis of ‘what I can do for you’ rather than ‘what you can do for me’.
Cover letters should be fairly concise (usually one page) and should be well written (accurate spelling and grammar) with a strong structure. After all, this may well provide the firm with its first impression of the standard of work that you are able to deliver. Whilst drafting your cover letter, using temporary headings can help to ensure you maintain a clear structure. Below is a structure favoured by some (including me) for cover letters for established graduate.
Mr/Mrs Your Name
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Mr/Mrs Name Of Recruiter
1. Salutation (Dear…)
- Try to find the name of the specific person that will be receiving your application. This shows good research and professionalism. Otherwise, use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
- Summarise the purpose of the letter using a bold heading between the salutation and the introduction, e.g. ‘Summer Internship Application’.
- State the role/opportunity for which you are applying.
4. State your reasons for applying for the job
- Tell the story of how your interest in your chosen career has developed.
- See the ‘Career Motivation’ section of this handbook for help with this step.
5. State your reasons for applying to the particular firm
- Do not give generic reasons for applying to that firm that merely reflect a quick skim of the firm’s marketing materials. Think of legitimate ways to differentiate the firm and, more importantly, relate these elements back to you in order to convince recruiters that these factors genuinely appeal.
- See the ‘Firm Motivation’ section of this handbook for help with this step.
6. Explain why you believe that you are a suitable candidate
- Relate your skills to the competencies required for the role in question and briefly explain how your strengths and experiences will add value/be advantageous to the organisation.
- You could thank the reader for considering your application before signing off. Sign off with “Yours sincerely” if you know the name of the reader, or ‘Yours faithfully’ if you do not.
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By Jake Schogger - City Career Service