Use one side of A4 paper, plain white photocopier paper is fine. If you are emailing it put it in the body of the email; don’t attach it.
Make sure you use the same paper as you used for your CV; it demonstrates professionalism.
Use no more than four paragraphs.
Make sure your letter is an original and not a copy. Print it with a good quality printer. If you send a copy it reflects badly on you and shows you didn’t care enough to spend the time creating a letter specifically for them.
Address the letter to the correct person and make sure his or her name is spelt correctly. Use their correct title and be sure to get their gender right.
The spell check on your word processor will pick up some errors but you need to double check your spelling and grammar. Spell check wouldn’t pick up on the difference between “from” and “form” for example. Break down any contractions; that is to say, write “I have” not “I’ve”. An applicant who demonstrates perfect spelling and grammar is much more likely to impress an employer.
If you want to explain any gaps in your CV that might concern an employer; don’t tell lies, instead reinterpret the missing time as something positive. For example, a year spent travelling can be spun as an opportunity to develop initiative and team working skills through solo and group travel.
Keep it simple. Use clear and concise sentences. Use a maximum of seven lines in each paragraph and vary the sentence length.
Make your presentation interesting. Highlight your skills and attributes in bold or indent them with bullets. Underlining isn’t as effective or clear, so avoid it.
Demonstrate you have researched the company by including some information. Don’t overdo it, but make it clear you know who they are, what they do and why you have chosen them.
Request an interview. This is your primary goal, so don’t forget to ask for one at the end of your letter. Let the employer know you will follow up in a few days to ensure your letter was received.
Don’t enclose a photograph with your letter unless you are looking for work in acting or as a model.
Use your own words, your letter should sound like you. However don’t be too informal, it is a business proposal you are making, so the letter should be set out like a business letter; use a traditional business letter format.
Sell yourself but emphasis what you can do for the company, don’t talk too much about yourself. Generate excitement and be positive.
Sign the cover letter with a blue or black ink pen.
Keep a copy of the cover letter for your records. It’s a good idea to keep track of the CVs and cover letters you send out, as you never know when you might need to refer to something.