The role of a cover letter is to complement a CV, not to repeat what you've already stated in your CV. The cover letter allows you to write information that typically doesn't appear on a CV, which will allow you to highlight key skills and qualifications that you have and that are needed for the job applied for.
Not only that but you'll be able to add a certain personal touch and humanise what is usually a data-orientated and factual set of bullet points and dates held within your CV.
Types of cover letters
Typically, there are three distinct types of cover letters, including:
- The application cover letter, which accompanies a CV to a specific role you're applying for
- A prospective cover letter, inquiring about possible openings and positions
- A network cover letter, requesting assistance in your quest to find a suitable job
Each one should be written differently as each plays a different role.
The effective cover letter
An effective cover letter should demonstrate your strengths to a company and highlight the your interest in a specific role. An effect cover letter should also outline your experience and relevant skills need for a role without simply duplicating the information held on your accompanying CV.
In a cover letter you have the chance to explain how you found out about a job opening (an application cover letter) and what you already know about a a role and organisation (a prospective cover letter).
In a cover letter you may also be able to address tricky issues that may arise in any subsequent job interview (i.e. You're apply for a job hundreds of miles away from your current location ... well in the cover letter you can reassure a company that you're happy to relocate if your application was successful).
Cover letter format
A cover letter, regardless of its purpose should always contain your name, address, contact number and email address, as well as the address of the company receiving the letter.
Within the first paragraph of a cover letter, mention your name, the position you're applying for, why and where you found the job listed (if an application cover letter).
The second paragraph should highlight your current skills and experience within a similar role. Mention how your experience and qualifications match up to those required for the role. This will reassure the company that you will be able to successfully fill the required vacancy.
Within the final paragraph conclude the cover letter by thanking the reader for their time and considering you for the open position. Finally sign of using a Complimentary Close (i.e. Respectfully yours,) and sign the letter with a handwritten signature.
Finally ... spell check the letter and make sure that the content is clear, concise and does not merely repeat what is already in your accompanying CV.