How To Write A Cover Letter: The Basics

Think about this for a minute; do you know how to write a cover letter? In the whirling haze that is job-searching, it can often be easy to miss a vital step along the way – ending up careening into a career-less vortex. And no-one wants to end up in a vortex.


Many people spend hours lovingly crafting a perfect CV, forgetting that for many employers, a cover letter is actually far more important. While a CV perfectly documents what you’ve done – and well done you for doing it – a cover letter is all about what you will do and how  you will do it – a prospect that is far more exciting for entrepreneurial types.

Let’s get started: How to write a cover letter, the Enternships way:

1.Know the company (and in particular, their website)

Though it’s just about acceptable to have a blanket CV that fits basically any job, this is certainly not the case with your cover letter. Every company you apply to will have something different about them – and all it takes to discover what marks them out as different is a few minutes on their website. There, you’ll find the USP they’re trying to push, their tone and style of branding, their partners, associates and clients (if they have them). Using this information, you’ll be able to mirror their own tone and passions in your application – convincing them from the start that you’re someone who will fit in their team.

2.Know their goals

At the end of the day, employers (and particularly those in smaller companies) want  to work with people who share their goals. There are two objectives you need to focus on in particular: the goal of the company at large (ie, the problem they are trying to solve) and the goal of the role you’re applying to. Though these goals will be inextricably linked, they will be different and need to be approached as such. Be sure to describe your enthusiasm and expertise relating to both when writing your cover letter.

3.Know what you want

Though your cover letter is a chance to talk about why you’re interested in the company (as opposed to what you’ve done in the past, which is what your CV is for), it’s also important that you underline the appeal of the job for you. Why does it excite you? How do you feel it will stretch you? What makes you think the job will be a good fit for you, and how can you prove it? It’s vital that you get across your passion for the opportunities the role will present, and both why and how you will attack them with vigour.

4. Consider your opening paragraph

More than any other section of your cover letter, your opening gambit is your chance to punch your employers in the eyes with your brilliance. Many people mistake the opening few lines of your cover letter as a chance to ease into what they want to say, stating that they have “an interest in the role”, that they’re “applying for the position of”, that “they’ve seen the opportunity in” – all of this is nonsense. Your cover letter exists – stating its purpose is therefore redundant.

Instead, trying and find something original, surprising and insightful to say; something that will make the probably fairly glazed-eyed reader sit up and spill coffee all over their knees. State your favourite thing about the company. State your childhood dream. State the mistake you notice on their website and why you’ll be the one to fix it – say something real to you, something in keeping with the branding of the company and something they’ll remember.

5.Edit, edit, edit.

As the old saying goes: how long is a piece of cover letter? Very tricky to say. So much depends on the role, your experience, and how much detail the company has asked for on the job description itself. But if we had to give you a limit (and everyone loves limits) we’d say a page of A4, font size 10/11. There are two reasons for this: 1) people get bored reading things, even FANTASICALLY AMAZING INSPIRING things like what your cover letter is obviously going to be. And 2) It will force you to be concise, clear and to the point. You’ll have to get rid of the things that don’t actually matter, and the sentences that don’t actually say anything specific. Be brutal with yourself. Print it out, cut it down, rework, reword, until it’s as close to perfection as you can physically stand it.

Once you’ve worked out how to write a cover letter, your application will sparkle. Very best of luck to you.

By Natasha Hodgson

Community Manager at Enternships

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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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