The best way to learn how to write a cover letter is by doing it

Practice makes perfect. This in true for writing in general, be it for a letter, an article or a report, and therefore also true for writing a cover letter. Particularly if you haven’t written a cover letter for a job application in a while and are out of practice, it’s a good idea to take your time and write a few practice letters. Then you can conclude this practice session by actually writing your cover letter for this job application. First you should undertake some self-analysis, as well as some light research into the company and the position you are applying for. Once you have lined up this information, you will find the writing follows easily.


The main goal of the letter is to convince the reader that you are the most suitable candidate; to sell yourself by emphasising your strong points while also briefly mentioning your weaker points. It is a good idea to write down your qualities, your ambitions and requirements, your work experience and the type of job you would prefer before you start your job search. Once you have neatly lined this up, you can start looking for a suitable job. After all, it makes no sense to apply for a job that you are not suitably qualified for. It would be a waste of effort.

Writing your job application letter: layout

Several different layout options are generally accepted for a professional letter. You can find templates (using Google) and then you merely have to choose which format you like best. For example, your address may be on the left, and below that the address of the company, and location and date of the letter writing. To some extent it depends on the type of job that you are looking for, but if it is a job in the creative sector, you could opt for a more creative layout using colour and an original format. Make sure you don’t overdo it. And in all cases make sure you use clean unwrinkled paper.

Writing your job application letter: content

Next comes the body of the letter; the actual content. Write short sentences of at most 13 words. Avoid trade jargon and the use of words such as: feel, believe, shall, very, as they add very little meaning to your text, and also avoid use of the passive voice. Divide your letter into four paragraphs, separated by a line of white space.

In the first paragraph you indicate where you found the information about the vacancy and what your motivation is for responding. Are you looking for a new job because you are looking for a new challenge, are you looking for a permanent job?

In the second paragraph you write about what interests you about this position. Which aspects of the job appeal to you or which of the qualifications seems like a match to you?

In the third paragraph you can explain why you are the most suitable candidate for this job. What are your positive qualities and what aspect of your experience in your previous work, your interests or your hobbies can be useful to this role?

In the fourth paragraph you formulate a closing sentence in which you express your hope that your letter will lead to an invitation for a personal interview.

It should be clear that the second and third paragraphs are the most challenging to write. Think about what added value you add if you are hired for the job and let that guide you.


Some extra pointers

Try to be creative with the language you use. Start, for example, with a witty opening sentence. It should be engaging and catch the attention of the reader. In your closing sentence, try to pique the curiosity of the reader. Of course you would like to be invited, but also add that you would enjoy the opportunity to provide more information about your motivation and qualities.

And last but not least: make no exaggerations in your letter. Tell the facts as they are and emphasise your positive traits. If you don’t have one of the requirements specified in the job description, it is best to mention that, while at the same time explaining why you think you would be the right person for this job despite that. 

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