Tips on tailoring a cover letter to a job advert

Cover Letter

Tips on tailoring a cover letter to a job advert

1. Define the requirements of the job

Read the job advert carefully. You want to identify:

  • Essential requirements. These may include education, years of experience, type of experience, specific skills or knowledge. They will be described as "essential", "required", "must have" or "necessary".
  • Preferred requirements. These may include language or technical skills, as well as experience. They will be described as: "preferred", "an asset" or "an advantage".
  • Inferred requirements. These will not be referred to explicitly at all. But, by reading the advert carefully, you can often infer the "like to have" requirements of the recruiter. For example, if the advert describes the company as "dynamic and fast-paced", you can infer that they would prefer candidates who show energy and drive.

2. Prioritise the requirements of the job

Look at the job from the recruiter's point of view and assess which of the requirements are most important. This will help you prioritise the skills and experience that you put into the letter.

3. Identify your relevant experience:

Review your skills, experience, education and personal characteristics and pull out the elements that strongly match the requirements of the job.

These are the aspects of your experience that you should aim to highlight in the cover letter. Any aspect of your experience that is not directly relevant to one of the top requirements should not be referred to in your cover letter as it will distract the recruiter from understanding exactly why you will be good in the job.

4. Add "something extra"

Although you now have the basic content from which to structure your letter, you need to make it stand out from those from other applicants. The best way to do this is to personalise it. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • You can illustrate your top-priority strengths with an anecdote or story regarding past achievements.
  • You can identify an issue of high relevance to the company and demonstrate your knowledge of their business.
  • You can directly relate one of your top strengths to the challenges faced by the company.

For high impact approaches to personalisation, Click here to read "A guide to writing high impact cover letters" or return to The do's of cover letter writing for more guidelines on writing your cover letter.

Contributed by:

What is cover letter?
What is the best way to write a cover letter?

The "do's" of cover letter writing
The "don'ts" of cover letter writing

Tips on tailoring a cover letter to a job advert
Attention-grabbing opening phrases
An example of a standard cover letter format
An example of a Fresh Graduate cover letter

When to use a high impact approach?
High impact tools and techniques
Example - with using a question
Example - with using a quotation
Example - with using an anecdote
Example - with using technical tools