The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you're applying to.
Dear Mr Brown,
I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information.
As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team.
I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I'm flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I'm keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name].
I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities.
3. Letter for creative jobs
We've used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you're not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they'll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it's a false economy, unless you're 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you'd like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you'll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn't come into it!
With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
•How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
•Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
•Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
•School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
•How to write a personal statement for your CV
•CV templates to fit every stage of your career
Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs or sign up to Guardian Careers for the latest job vacancies and career advice
Sample Cover Letter for a Writing Position
The internet created a boom of writing jobs of all kinds, from bloggers to technical writers to social media managers. But to land one of these jobs, you need to create a cover letter that not only conveys your relevant experience, but that captures an employer's attention, and persuades them that you have the skills to attract and engage readers.
Cover Letter Tips for a Writing Position
Don't Send a Form Letter: Form letters look lazy and lack originality.
You're applying for a job where your words matter. Use them to craft a specific letter that speaks uniquely to the position and potential employer.
Get to the Point: Some writers love to hear the sound of their own voice. Don't ramble or pontificate. Keep your letter tight, on target and to the point. Demonstrate the power of your words with brevity.
Choose Your Tone Wisely: Match the voice of your letter to the tone of the job description. If the description is formal, write a straightforward cover letter with a sophisticated voice. A fun, offbeat job description filled with humor gives you permission to let your guard down in your letter and spice it up. But don't go overboard on wackiness – when in doubt, reel it in.
Demonstrate Your Writing Technique: Use the cover letter as an opportunity to showcase your command of your craft. Vivid description and imagery aren't just for poetry and prose.
For example, if you're applying to write about food or travel, use sensory language in your descriptions. Tell an anecdote to describe your experience.
And what's an anecdote really but a story – draw the reader in, hook him with a conflict (e.g., "I had to write a 500-word piece overnight to meet a publication deadline") and then describe how you resolved it with your top-notch skills.
Sample Email Cover Letter for a Freelance Writing Job
Subject: Freelance Writing Position - Jane Doe
I'm very interested in your job post for a business writer. In my position as Business Representative for Union Local 080, I wrote feature articles for the website, managed content and link submissions, and wrote a weekly email newsletter to subscribers.
While Legislative Director for Assemblywoman Susan Smith, I researched, drafted and amended legislation, wrote press releases, and was responsible for office communications and correspondence.
I also have extensive experience writing freelance articles on labor issues, which, I believe, would be an ideal match for this position. Articles are available for your review at [insert links].
Additional writing samples and my resume are attached. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your consideration.
Sending an Email Cover Letter
Email cover letters obviously need to convey the same information as traditional, hard-copy cover letters, but there are a few writing and formatting differences to keep in mind, should you send your materials via email.
List your name and the job title in the subject line of the message, so that the hiring manager can tell at a glance that she’s looking at an application for this specific position.
Keep the body of the email short and sweet – no more than two or three paragraphs at most. And include your contact information in your signature, as well as links to your online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, or any other relevant materials. Here's an example of a formatted email cover letter.
- How to Send an Email Cover Letter: Includes tips and guidelines for formatting and sending email cover letters, including important reminders about attachments and sending test emails.
- How to Apply for Jobs via Email: This guide will help you send your cover letter, resume, and other application materials via email. Make a positive, professional impression on the hiring manager while dodging over-zealous spam filters with these tips.
- Salutation Examples: Not sure how to address the person who will be reading your cover letter? This article offers guidelines, even if you don’t know the name of the hiring manager.
More Sample Cover Letters
Here, you’ll find 100-plus cover letter samples and templates for a variety of career fields and employment levels, including entry-level, targeted and email cover letters for many different jobs. This collection of samples also includes cover letters for employee referrals, unadvertised openings, job transfer requests and more.