How To Write a General Cover Letter
Updated 13 April 2023
When you apply for a new job, a cover letter is often required alongside your CV. Although not all positions advertised state that a cover letter is required, including one with your application is a great way to impress potential employers. A cover letter is your opportunity to provide recruiters with a concise summary of your professional background and accomplishments that make you a great fit for the role. In this article, we explain the purpose of a general cover letter and the steps you can follow to write your own, and promote your best self to a prospective employer.
What is a general cover letter?
A general cover letter, also referred to as an all-purpose or universal cover letter, is a useful document that can be used when applying to multiple job advertisements within a related field or attending job fairs. While a general cover letter doesn't have to be tailored to a specific organisation, make sure it isn't too generic or appear to have been copied and pasted from one application to another. Creating your own general-purpose cover letter template is a fantastic time-saver if you want to impress potential employers without spending hours on individual documents.
A general cover letter provides a summary of the following key points recruiters are looking for:
information about your qualifications
what key skills make you suitable for the role
relevant professional accomplishments
why you are applying for the role
Related: How Important is a Cover Letter?
How to write a general cover letter
When applying for jobs, you may be considering how to write a general cover letter. Your cover letter is an opportunity to showcase what sets you apart from other applicants. The following steps outline how to write a general cover letter that's still impactful to potential employers:
1. Format your cover letter
A general cover letter is typically one page long and includes the following elements:
date and contact information
complimentary close and signature
This standard format allows you to structure a concise cover letter that includes all the necessary information a recruiter is looking for without just rehashing your CV.
2. Begin with your header
Although most job applications are now submitted via email or an online application portal, it's still useful to include a professional header listing your direct contact information for recruiters. This is particularly important if you are handing out physical copies alongside your CV at a job fair. Include your postal address, email address and telephone number. If you have an online professional profile, you may also want to include the link within your header for potential employers to follow.
3. Open with a salutation
Next, greet the reader of your cover letter. If you're unsure who to address the cover letter to or want to make it as generalised as possible, you can use the greeting 'to whom it may concern.' Ideally, you want to find the name of the recruiter to address them specifically. This is a really simple way to ensure your cover letter is not perceived as too generic. Addressing the reader personally demonstrates that you pay close attention to detail, and it does not take much time to edit into your cover letter template.
4. Introduce yourself
Your introductory paragraph is your opportunity to provide a great first impression to your potential employer. Start by enthusiastically introducing yourself and explain why you're applying for the position. To ensure your CV remains multipurpose, make sure to keep the details as general as possible when addressing your reasons for applying to that position. Include one of your most recent achievements to grab the recruiter's attention and explain why it makes you an excellent candidate for the job.
5. Write the body of your cover letter
The middle paragraphs create the body of your cover letter and typically include a summary of your career and the key qualities you can bring to the role. Try to keep this section concise and use bullet points to list some of your key skills, accomplishments and qualifications. Remember that the information you provide in your cover letter is complementary to your CV, so avoid simply copying the details from one document to another. Expand on why you're right for the job and use specific examples that demonstrate your capabilities and willingness to work hard.
6. Craft the closing paragraph
Your closing paragraph provides an opportunity for you to give a succinct summary of why the recruiter needs to hire you for the position. You can also include a call to action within this section and express that you're keen to learn more about the role during the next stage of the hiring process. Advise your availability to discuss your application in more detail and thank the reader for their time and consideration before signing off your letter.
Related: How To End a Cover Letter
Tips for writing a general cover letter
Now that you know how to write a general cover letter, here are some tips to ensure that what you write impresses prospective employers:
Proofreading your professional documents is an important step. If you plan to use your general cover letter as a universal template for your future job applications, then it's even more important to do so. Check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before you send it. An error-free cover letter shows employers that you have a keen eye for detail.
Identify your unique selling points (USP)
Your unique selling points (USPs) are what separate you from other applicants. When writing a general cover letter, try to identify what value you could bring to the job role, regardless of the specific organisation. Clearly outline the key skills or attributes you have that would make you an asset to the company. Where possible, reference specific examples of key accomplishments that demonstrate these qualities to the employer.
Make sure your cover letter looks professional by ensuring the presentation is simple and clear. Use a basic font in a 10 or 12 point size rather than something decorative. This may ensure the document is easier to read both by the recruiter and any automated applicant tracking systems organisations may use to scan your document. In general, it's best practice to use the same font in your cover letter that you have used on your CV. Using single-spaced lines throughout can also improve readability, making it easier for the employer to read your cover letter quickly.
Read the application instructions
Using a general cover letter can save you time when you have many applications to complete, but you want to be mindful and read the job post or application carefully for each listing. In some instances, employers may ask that you answer certain questions within your cover letter. Be sure to amend your cover letter if needed to ensure all of the information the employer has requested is present so that you don't miss out on your opportunity to proceed to the next stage of the hiring process.
Related: What Is a Cover Letter Template?
General cover letter template
Use the below template to help you create your own general cover letter:
Your phone number
Your professional networking link
Dear [Recruiters Name] or To whom it may concern,
[The first paragraph of your cover letter serves as an introduction to your potential employer. Let the recruiter know who you are and why you are interested in the position. Use an eye-catching example of a professional achievement that demonstrates why you are an excellent candidate for the role. Be sure to include relevant details and results that back up your statements.]
[The main body of your cover letter details any relevant experience that makes you a great match to the job description. When writing a general cover letter, you may choose to create a list of results and accomplishments relevant to your field but not specific to each company you are applying to. Your list could include:
a specific goal that you met and how
any technical skills, abilities or relevant qualifications
managerial or leadership experience
innovations or ideas that brought value to the business
one or two of your key strengths]
[In your closing paragraph, provide a summary of your key accomplishments and refer back to why you are the best applicant for the role. State your interest in the next stages of the hiring process and include a call to action to encourage a response from the recruiter. Advise of your availability to discuss your application further before signing off your letter and express your enthusiasm towards receiving a response.]
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