Be it for a university application, a job, or other formal submission, a top quality cover letter is of the highest importance. Your cover letter serves to augment the information provided in your CV or academic record, that which is “covered”; your letter is consequently the first impression the recruiter will have of you. Moreover, your application will likely be one of numerous others for the same course or role. Accordingly, you want to stand out from the crowd and be compelling as well as demonstrating the requisite character traits for the desired place. Your word-count will necessarily be limited, seeing as the essential information should be provided in the CV/application form. Hence you will need to balance brevity with depth, employing careful editing to ensure that only essential information is included. To this end, you want to be terse. Use words sparingly. You do not want to bore the reader with excessive or, worse, irrelevant details; nor do you want to omit that which is clearly required. Lay out in a clear and logical way the principal reasons you would be ideal for the position in question. Assess the register and tone of the institution or workplace and emulate it. This will instantly invest your letter with the appropriate connotations.
Note that every cover letter essentially seeks to answer a series of questions relevant to the post. If the letter were for a job, you would want to make clear that you can fulfil all the job requirements; if for a university place, that you can meet study demands. Try, therefore, to plan your cover letter as a series of responses to unstated questions. Usually you can discover what these questions might be by looking at the job specification or course requirements. It is absolutely essential that you address these criteria in your cover letter. As indicated above, planning is an integral part of composing a cover letter. You want to do as much research as possible before you begin writing. The more specifics you have about the position in question the more likely you are to offer something interesting or insightful when discussing it. This will impress the recruiter. Remember, whatever the role, you are competing with other candidates who have the same access to information as yourself. In order to stand out, you want to go the extra mile at the research stage so as to be able to deliver a higher quality final product. Not only will this give your work extra polish, it will demonstrate initiative and a willingness to go above and beyond, traits that befit any imaginable prospective placement. Finally you need to proofread your cover letter very closely, making sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors (which are a sign of sloppiness). A well-written and error-free cover letter will place you in good stead to persuade the recruiter of your abilities and therefore your suitability for the role.
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