27th January 2019
This guide is taken from the Know How Library, a tool on the Unifrog platform. Not sure whether to take the ACT or the SAT? Or how to give the perfect Oxbridge practice interview? The Know How Library is an easily searchable library of 100s of expert guides for both students and teachers, covering every aspect of the progression process. It is included as standard for Unifrog partner schools.
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. For many, this is the trickiest part of applying for any job or apprenticeship. There’s a bit of an art to it though, and the sooner you get the knack of it, the sooner those interview invites will be flying into your inbox. So think of that blank document as a blank canvas - one you’re about to cover in writing so fantabulous it’d have Shakespeare himself green with envy. Ready, sayest thou? Ay?? Let’s do this.
Step 1 – Read the job/apprenticeship description
Yep, we know this one seems a bit obvious, but when we say ‘read’ we really mean dissect. Figure out exactly what these guys want from their ideal applicant. If you’re lucky, they’ll have provided a handy bullet point list. If not, just highlight key words and create your own. Have a go with this one:
Wanted! Animal care assistant for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Due to an unfortunate incident, we’re now on the lookout for a new animal care assistant. The role is a varied one, but general duties will include feeding, grooming and training magical creatures, purchasing food and occasionally taking a large but cowardly boarhound named Fang for his evening walk.
One or two of the animals can be a little tempestuous at times, particularly our young female Norwegian Ridgeback dragon, so this job is not for the lighthearted and you’ll need to be quick on your feet. The animals won’t always behave how you want them to, so resilience is also a must. Finally, our head gamekeeper likes to keep the animals on a very strict diet and exercise schedule, so we need someone with good organization skills.
This position is open to anyone with the right skills and we won’t discriminate against muggles, although naturally we’d prefer applicants with relevant experience and a genuine passion for animal care.
Wage: 62 galleons, 4 sickles / week
Hopefully, your list will look a little like this one:
- Strong organization skills
- Quick on feet
- Experience with animals and a genuine passion for animal care
Step 2: Answer these three easy questions
1. Why do you want to work (or complete an apprenticeship) with this company?
Do your research. Have a rummage through the company’s website, blog and social media channels to find out what they’ve been up to recently, what they care about, and what makes them stand out from the rest. If you’re going for an apprenticeship, you might want to mention something specific about the training programme they offer.
E.g. Having thoroughly enjoyed volunteering with animals for the past three months, I now want to broaden my experience by working with some of the world’s rarest magical creatures. Hogwarts, with its impressive range of beasts and reputation for excellent staff training, seems like the perfect place to do this.
This section doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to be relevant and personal to you.
2. Why do you want this particular job/apprenticeship?
Again, start with some research. If it isn’t clear on the job or apprenticeship description, find out exactly what this role will involve and be honest about why you want to pursue it. Unifrog has some great guides to specific roles in the Careers Library, and the National Careers Service is another good source.
E.g. I believe that working with animals is challenging and rewarding in equal parts. Through my volunteer experience with Dogs Trust, I’ve found that each animal has its own quirks and demands. Getting to know these traits and using them to provide good care has been challenging; however, I find nothing more rewarding than watching a young, rebellious puppy grow into a well-behaved, healthy and happy adult. The animal care assistant role at Hogwarts will allow me to put these skills into use in a much more challenging environment and I think the rewards will be equally amazing.
3. What makes you the best candidate for this job/apprenticeship?
This is the most important section, so spend some time on it. It’s also where the list you created earlier will come in super handy. Think about how you can demonstrate each one of the points you listed. Remember, you need to provide examples as evidence – they won’t just take your word for it.
E.g. My strong organization skills were tested when planning a fundraiser walk to the top of Ben Nevis. The walk itself was very challenging because of unexpected weather and I helped my team to overcome many setbacks, which I believe shows my resilience and ability to deal with challenging work environments.
Step 3: Add a beginning and an end
The beginning of your letter shout outline why you’re writing –
E.g. I wish to apply for the position of ‘Animal Care Assistant’, which I saw advertised in the Daily Prophet last Thursday, and I enclose my CV for your consideration.
The end of your letter should outline what you hope to be the next step –
E.g. I look forward to discussing this role with you at an interview…
Step 4: Get the formatting right
The hard bit is over! Now you’ve just got to make it look good:
- Make sure the cover letter is no more than one page in length
- Use the formal business letter layout for your country. If you’re in the UK, use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and ‘yours faithfully’ if you don’t know who you’re sending it to, or ‘Dear Mr / Ms [name]’ and ‘yours sincerely’ if you do. Include addresses if using a word document (rather than email) – see an example here.
- Give your letter a title or subject line, e.g. ‘Re. application for position as animal care assistant’
- Proofread your letter and make sure you check for any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. Don’t rely on computer spell checks – they miss stuff out. Ask a friend or family member to double check it.
- Use a plain type face – Ariel size 11 is very common for formal letters. Whichever you choose, make sure it matches your CV.
Handy tip – want to stand out? Contact the employer to find out who you should address your cover letter to. If you manage to get a name, remember to change ‘yours faithfully’ to ‘yours sincerely’.
And that’s it – you’re all done! Once you’ve checked, re-checked and checked it again, get it sent off with a copy of your CV. If you don’t hear anything back after a week or so, try giving the employer a call – it’ll show that you’re keen and will give them an opportunity to ask any follow-up questions.
Did you find this guide useful? If not, or if you have any ideas for new guides, email firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to hear your thoughts!