writing cover letters

Nail that job with a formal cover letter

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I’ve been proofreading a number of CVs and cover letters recently. It seems that many people have got itchy feet! In this digital age it can be difficult to know how to address a prospective employer so I thought I would do a little research on the current trends. I’m an old fashioned type, and personally I prefer to follow the approach that if doubt, stick to the formal rules of address. I remember an old boss of mine sorting through applications for a vacancy in the office and immediately discarding any that did not have a covering letter. The applicant could have had the ideal qualifications and experience but would have failed at the first hurdle (with no idea why).

Basic formal rules

With the increasing use of electronic means of communication: email, messaging and online application forms, the opportunities to write a formal letter, on paper, are few and far between. However, for those important occasions when you do need to construct a formal letter that makes an impression – even if you aren’t printing and posting –  it’s crucial to use the correct forms of address. The basic rules are quite simple. If you know the name of the person you are addressing write: Dear Mr Blogs or Dear Mrs Blogs; if you don’t know their name then write: Dear Sir or Madam. When signing off your letter, if you have opened with Dear Mr Blogs then sign off: yours sincerely; if you have addressed your letter to Dear Sir then sign off: yours faithfully.

Addressing emails

The internet has transformed the recruitment process. It may appear easier to send your job application by email, but the same care and attention to detail is required as any other method. The general consensus amongst recruitment experts is to use the same form of address in an email application as you would if sending a formal letter, so use the Dear Sir or Madam, or address the recruiter by their name, if known, and sign off yours faithfully or sincerely. The email sign-offs regards, best regards, kind regards, best wishes, etc. can all be mis-interpreted, and don’t open the email with Hello, Good morning, or To whom it may concern.

Your chance to impress

It is often said that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” with a job application. (Incidentally, this quotation is attributed to Oscar Wilde.) There is no end of advice available on the internet for prospective job seekers. This Guardian article has two excellent examples of formal letters, using the forms of address I’ve outlined here, although in my opinion their third ‘creative-style application’ is probably more suited to a freelance approach than an employee position. There’s also lots of advice and samples about email applications on the JobSearch website.

Once you’ve found the ideal job and drafted your CV and cover letter it must be word perfect. Check, double check, and check again, or contact me to discuss professional proofreading and copy-editing of your CV, cover letter or job application.

Writing cover letters
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