The Cover Letter (CL) is the document that accompanies your CV when youare applying for a job. For academic purposes, the document used istypically called statement of purpose, and is laid out after somewhatdifferent rules. The CL is short (200-250 words), with a quite rigidstructure and has the layout of a letter. Its goal is to introduce theCV, to bring to attention aspects of your activity that can help yourapplication and are not listed or not presented in the proper light inthe CV. In short, its goal is to answer the recruiter's question: "Whyshould I hire this person?".
Layout. The layout is that of a formal business letter: your addressand contact details come under your name, in the upper right corner ofthe page. Underneath, aligned left, write the name, function,organisation and address of the person you are writing to. It is a lotbetter to know the name of the person who is going to read your letter.You should address the letter directly to him or her. In the case youdo not know the name, an email, a little digging in the net or a phonecall should help you get that name, in case it is not mentioned in theofficial announcement. Under the receiver's address, but aligned right,write the date of the day when you are writing the letter. You shouldspell the name of the month and use four digits for the year. You canput in front of the date the location, like Sofia, 2nd December 2000.
If you do know the name of the addressee, start with Dear Mr (Mister),Ms (Miss), Mrs (Mistress), Dr (Doctor), without the full stop that youmight expect to follow the abbreviation, and the surname of theaddressee, followed by comma (Dear Dr Smith,). In this case, you shouldend the letter with the salutation Yours sincerely. If you do not knowthe name, start with Dear Sirs, or Dear Sir or Madam and close withYours faithfully. In American business correspondence, Yours truly isacceptable in both cases. Do not start the body of the mail with acapital letter, since it follows a comma.
Structure. Ideally, a cover letter has no more than four paragraphs.The goal of the first is to specify what you are applying for and howdid you find out about that opportunity. The last one outlines youravailability for an interview, suggesting in this way a concretefollow-up for your application.
The second paragraph should list your skills and qualifications thatmake you the right person for the position you are applying for. Readcarefully the announcement, identify the requirements and see how yourskills match those required. Do not simply state you have them, proveit. Ideally, you should start from your experience and show how youhave developed those qualifications by doing what you have beendoing/learning. Same as in the case of your CV, the result shouldportrait you as an independent, creative person that can takeinitiative and deal with responsibilities, apart from the specificskills needed for the job. In short, the second paragraph should showwhy you are good for the job.
The third should point out why you want it. You should outline yourinterest for the skills you are going to learn if you get the job. Theimpression left should be that you can make a genuine contribution tothe company's operations, while simultaneously deriving satisfactionfrom your work.
After the fourth paragraph leave a blank space, same as you should doin the beginning, after the salutation (Dear). Write the properclosing, as described above and your name. Do not forget to leave ablank space between the closing and your name and to sign the letter inthat space.
Enclosure. It is customary for formal letters to mention whether youhave enclosed any documents accompanying the letter. Simply mentionenclosure, or write curriculum vitae under the heading enclosure at theend of the letter.
Print the letter on A4 white paper same as that on which your CV wasprinted, and put both documents in an A4 envelope of matching color. Ifyou are emailing it request a notification that your documents havebeen received. Wait at least two weeks since the day you sent yourapplication or after the deadline before writing again in the case youdid not get any answer.