How To: Write A Covering Letter
What is a covering letter?
Many people think of the covering letter as an addition to their CV, but in fact a good covering letter is just as vital as the rest of your CV.
Covering letters go at the front of your CV and act as your introduction to a future employer. Whether mailed or emailed, they are the first thing an employer reads, even before your CV.
A well-written covering letter should demonstrate that you have the qualities and key skills for the job, and should convince an employer you’re suitable for and serious about the job. This is where you can let your personality shine through – a CV is usually more about the facts.
How do I write a covering letter?
First things first.
- Find out who you’re applying to – if the job advert doesn’t have a contact name, use a generic Sir/Madam, but if you can find out the name of the person who’s reading the letter, it will instantly make your letter more personal.
- Write your CV – a covering letter should be your first page, an introduction to your CV, so it’s usually best to write it after you’ve written a CV you’re 100% happy with.
- Pick out the key skills for the job – it’s probably easier to write a list of your key skills, then a list of the key skills for the job and then match them up, including any you don’t have but are willing to learn (though you must explain this in your letter!).
Suggested Covering Letter Structure
State the job you’re applying for, where you found out about it and when you can start work
Tell the employer why you’re interested in that type of work, and why the company attracts you
Summarise your strengths and how they might be an advantage to the organisation, and relate your skills to the requirements of the job
Mention any dates that you won’t be available for interview and thank the employer and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.
- If written, use clean, plain white photocopier paper – layout is more important than quality here. But don’t use lined or hole punch paper!
- If emailed, put your covering letter in the body of the email, and attach your CV
- Keep it short and concise – no longer than one A4 page
- If you can, address the letter to the individual who’ll be reading it
- Spell-check and double check, especially your grammar and watch out for silly spelling mistakes
- Use your own words, not clichés – to make your personality stand out
- Answer the question “Why should I see you?” in your covering letter
- You might include your understanding of the work and knowledge of the industry or specific job and why you wish to pursue a career in it
- Relate your skills to the job, whether they be specific to the job, or transferable skills you’ve picked up in other industries.