11 Dec 2019
There’s a lot of advice out there about how to perfect your CV, but often cover letters go under the radar and this can damage your job search. Some applications will explicitly ask you to include a cover letter, while others might not. But you may wish to include one anyway, to help boost your chances of landing the job.
This handy guide will answer some of the most common questions about writing a cover letter, such as why they're so important, what you need to include and how to send it.
If you’ve never been asked for a cover letter before, you might not understand what this document is and what a powerful tool it can be.
A cover letter accompanies your CV when you apply for a job. It gives you a chance to introduce yourself to the recruiter and encourage them to read your CV.
It’s also designed to build rapport with the reader and highlight your key skills and achievements in more detail than a CV allows for.
There are no set regulations for how long your cover letter should be, but as a general rule, stick to one A4 page or less.
Recruiters are time-poor and thus won’t spend long reading each application they receive. As such, it’s best to keep it short and snappy so you can grab their attention right away.
This also forces relevancy and ensures you’ll only include the best information about yourself. All in all, a concise yet compelling cover letter will allow you to sell you experience and encourage the recruiter to open your CV.
Because your cover letter is made up of just a few short paragraphs, you need to be very selective with what information you include. The best way to format your cover letter is as follows:
Part one: Start by addressing the recruiter or employer directly – ideally by name. Then introduce yourself with a sentence or two about who you are and the exact role you're applying for.
Part two: In the main body of your cover letter, explain your motivation for applying and give a high-level summary of why you’d make a good match for the role. This might include your key qualifications, top skills and relevant chef experience.
Ideally, you’ll tailor this content to the job description. For example, if the employer was specifically seeking candidates with experience of cooking Italian food, you’d make sure to mention your experience of working with Italian cuisine/menus. Or, if the employer mentioned the importance health and safety qualifications, you’d make sure to mention any relevant training and/or qualifications you hold.
If you’re an experienced chef, you should also aim to allude to the results and achievements gained for your current or previous employers – for example:
• In my previous role as Sous Chef, I reorganised the kitchen to boost efficiency for the head chef.
• I worked alongside the head chef on one of the biggest events the restaurant has ever hosted, catering for over 150 people.
Part three: To finish off, write a snappy call to action, such as ‘Please see my CV attached’ and then thank the reader for their time.
Things to remember: Remember to use the job description to help you throughout, by attempting to match the key skills and qualifications the employer is looking for, as well as how much experience they’ve requested. You should also keep this section high-level, providing a short and snappy summary of your key selling points. The cover letter should only be a brief insight into why you’re a suitable fit for the role - you can provide more detail in your CV.
If you're emailing the recruiter or employer directly, paste your cover letter into the body of the email, with your CV attached. This can be better than adding the cover letter as an additional attachment, as it instantly greets the reader and encourages them to open your attached CV.
That said, if you're applying via a job site, you might not have a choice but to send the document as an attachment. In this case, it’s best to attach your cover letter as a Word document.
Your cover letter is just as important as your chef CV. If you spend some time perfecting them and ensuring they’re both tailored to your target role, you’ll significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and Fast Company.