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The do’s and don’ts of cover letters

A persuasive cover letter can be the difference between getting an interview, and being rejected. Follow these simple tips to enable you to produce effective letters.

A good cover letter shows a competitive candidate who has a clear idea of what they can offer an employer, and the career path they want to pursue.

It translates your skills and experience, making them applicable to that particular job. It will explain who you are, and what you have done to reach the point of application.

A clear writing style will demonstrate essential communication skills, and indicate that you are ready to enter the world of employment. 



Spruce it up - A cover letter is your chance to elaborate upon your CV and reveal your personality.

Show, not tell - Remember to always give relevant examples of when you have achieved results. Don’t just say that you’re great — show it!

Make it relevant - Your CV and job applications are packed with information; a good cover letter will interpret this data and make it applicable to the job in question.

Turn negatives into positives - If you haven’t met all the essential requirements, explain how you are still a strong candidate.

Explain any gaps - Use the cover letter to tie any loose ends together to ensure the employer doesn’t jump to any false conclusions.


A generic, ill-considered cover letter will immediately give the impression that you are an unfocused, lazy individual who doesn’t know what they want, and who doesn’t understand what the professional world of employment demands.

It will also undersell your skills, suggesting that you don’t know what you can actually offer to the employer. On a very basic level, a poorly-written cover letter will also demonstrate a lack of communication skills. With that in mind...


Be boring - You need to strike a balance between casual and professional. Be friendly, and avoid the use of jargon and pretentious language.

Mirror your CV - The best cover letters will complement your CV, rather than duplicate it.

Copy and paste - Although it’s okay to use a template when writing your cover letter, don’t just copy and paste new details, such as the job title, into an old letter. You need to minimise the risk of silly mistakes. And besides, you wouldn’t just say the same things in every interview, would you?

Be generic - Each cover letter must be tailored to the reader by drawing out points from the job description.

Use weak phrases - Be assertive and confident. Rather than saying “I think I have the skills” say “I have the skills”.