How to write the perfect cover letter

Applying for jobs isn’t just about having a sparkling CV these days. As well as wowing employers with your skills and experience, you also need to show a desire for the specific job you are putting yourself forward for.

The cover letter is an increasingly important, yet oft neglected, part of the application process. It allows you to set out exactly why you are suited to a specific job, while also highlighting additional experience that might not be relevant on a general CV.

But what are the ingredients for a perfect cover letter when applying for jobs in the hospitality industry?

Know your audience

For most positions and job applications, you should open your cover letter with, “To whom it may concern.” Remember you are writing to a potential employer, not a distant friend. 

Make sure you use formal language throughout, but ensure that your are polite as possible. Telling the reader you “appreciate the time taken to read your application” and you would be “grateful for any feedback” should be a must.

However, there are instances when thinking outside the box might be good for a cover letter, but it’s important to know your audience. A top-quality restaurant is unlikely to appreciate an overly wacky message, while a family-friendly hotel will perhaps not be enthused by an application that is incredibly serious. 

Be specific and selective

While your CV might list your GCSE and A-Level qualifications, a hospitality firm is unlikely to be impressed by that A* you got in History class when you were 15. 

Pick and chose the choice cuts of information from your CV that you’d like to highlight specifically, for example, a Food Hygiene certificate, or any previous jobs that involved relevant skills.

They don’t have to be entirely applicable to the job, but make sure they relate in some way. Perhaps your Duke of Edinburgh award demonstrates confidence and leadership—an eminently transferable skill that could be passed on to other situations. 

Of course, if you’re a hospitality-sector veteran, be extremely specific about the roles you have held before and the skills that are applicable to the particular role you are applying for. 

Show enthusiasm

When describing your skills and suitability for a job, don’t just go through the motions. Instead of saying you spent a year working in the kitchen at a local restaurant, demonstrate your passion for the role and your desire to go further. If you served people pints at the pub around the corner, say you really enjoyed speaking to the customers and helping them to discover new drinks. 

Enthusiasm can go a long way when applying for the job. Employers don’t necessarily want a fully functioning robot—people skills and energy are certainly desirable traits. 

Reference the position directly

After introducing yourself in the opening paragraph, don’t just say “I would be perfect for this job” when discussing your suitability: Instead, write “I would be perfect for the role of Head Chef” or “I have all the skills and experience required to be an excellent Hotel Manager”. 

Show them that this isn’t just a generic letter and you have put time and effort into something that has been specifically crafted for the position they are trying to fill. 

Presentation 

You’ve probably heard that presenting an application on a scruffy bit of paper will put off employers from even looking at a cover letter. The same applies for electronic submissions.

Sure, it will be presented on a clean white form, but think about the layout of the text, the font size, the font style and the colour. Is the important information emphasised? Are the paragraphs so long the reader will lose interest?

Furthermore, due to the nature of CVs and cover letters, it’s likely that when opened as a document on Word, it will be littered with little red and green squiggles from the spelling and grammar check. Although you should iron these out before sending anyway, it’s difficult to avoid the marks appearing on “BA Hons” or “NVQ”.

Putting your cover letter, CV and any additional forms in PDF form will eliminate the issue, providing a clean and tidy set of documents to show off your skills.