Cover letter tips
Each time you send out a CV you must send a covering letter with it, whether you are responding to an advert or sending a speculative application. It is considered unprofessional not to send a covering letter/email with your CV. Unless the advert specifically says do not send any letters - always send a covering letter The covering letter is a very important part of your application; it introduces you and your CV to the prospective employer - and can in some cases be the difference between getting an interview or not.
The letter needs to say a bit more than just that your CV is enclosed. You need to highlight via your CV your specific skills and experiences, which will encourage the employer to start thinking you are the right person for the job - and try and match those skills (and developing skills) with the job advert. Initially the employer/reader wants to know that you can add value to the job/company in terms of the skills that you can bring to the job. This is your first opportunity to sell yourself - use it wisely and professionally in the first stage of the recruitment process - if its the job you want - it will be well worth it.
Aim of a cover letter
Before you write your covering letter you should clearly decide what you are trying to achieve. The format used is similar in each case, please see Suggested Format for tips on how to layout your letter.
Applying for an advertised vacancy
- Do research on the company and include this information in your letter
- Read the advertisement and make sure you address each of the requirements
- Draw attention to your relevant qualifications that make you suitable for the position
- Address the letter to the person named in the advert
To see an example of a covering letter for an advertised vacancy click here.
In this instance you are applying for a position that has not been advertised. This can be a good way to get a job as it is unlikely there will be many other applicants and this method shows initiative.
- Do research on the company and include this in the letter
- Make positive statements about what you can contribute to the company
- If possible refer to somebody in the company or a newspaper article
- It is in your best interest to follow up applications of this nature and indicate this in the closing paragraph of your letter
To see an example of a covering letter for a speculative application click here.
Applying for Work Experience
Work experience is an excellent way to decide on a career path or to gain more experience in your chosen career. Many companies offer work experience and good companies will give you a lot more to do than just making the tea or filing, such as job shadowing.
- There are 2 types of work experience: paid and unpaid. Obviously it is much easier to get unpaid work experience
- Address the letter to a named person in the company. If you know which department you want to work in you could send your letter directly to the Head of that department
To see an example of a covering letter for a work experience application click here.
After spending all that time creating a good, well designed CV don't be tempted to write a quick standard letter just so that you can get your application in the post. Your letter must:
- Address an individual person. Never address the letter to "Sir/Madam", if you are unsure who to write to phone up the company and find out
- Mention the advert for the job or state your reason for contacting the company
- Highlight your abilities and skills that are appropriate to the individual company and position you are seeking
- Demonstrate a knowledge of the company and their products/services.
There is no right or wrong way to write a covering letter, but it will be easier to write a good covering letter if you set out clear objectives and present them in a clear way.
- Explain who you are and why you are writing
- If you are responding to an advert state when and where you saw it
- Quote the reference number if one has been provided
- Mention if you have had any previous contact with the company
- Confirm that your CV is enclosed
- Briefly explain your job and qualifications
- Highlight skills that are appropriate for the job and the company
- Relevant work experience
- Refer to your CV, e.g. "As you will see from my enclosed CV…" this will entice them to read on and pay more close attention to your CV
- This is your opportunity to expand on information provided in your CV, but be careful not to oversell yourself or make too much of things that aren't mentioned in your CV at all.
- Give details of your interest in the company and why you want to join them
- Include some facts about the company to prove your knowledge and research, e.g. "As the largest supplier of tar in the Midlands…"
- Mention anything that has contributed to your interest in them, e.g. presentations, job fairs, contact with representatives through previous employment
- Request an opportunity for an interview
- State how you will follow up this application: either wait for their response or if appropriate say that you will telephone in a few days to discuss the matter further Remember, if you say that you are going to call - DO
- End politely and without a fuss
- Sign the letter with your name clearly repeated under your signature
- Remember to include your contact details in the letter
Length of the letter
Typed or handwritten?
A typed covering letter is more and more often the norm. It's easier to read and looks more professional, but be warned a standard letter can be spotted a mile away!
Handwriting your letter has its advantages; it shows that you have put a lot of effort into the individual application, rather than just pressing 'print', it adds a personal touch and it proves that you have good spelling, grammar and punctuation.
With the advent of email the handwritten covering letter has taken a bit of a backseat and if invited to email your application it is a good idea to do so as it proves that you are technologically proficient.
The decision is up to you but try to think which form your potential employer may prefer, if they are an IT company they would probably be more impressed by a typed letter.
DO'S on a Letter
- Make sure your letter is addressed to the right person at the right address
- Check all spelling, grammar and punctuation (including titles and addresses)
- Include your contact details in the letter
- Write your letter on good quality paper that matches your CV
- Customise your letter to target your potential employer
- Use bullet points if you need to, it can make the letter easier and quicker to read
- Include a proper introduction and ending
- State how you would like this application to be followed up
DONT'S on a Letter
- Send your letter to "Sir/Madam"
- Write reams. Your letter should be short, concise and to the point; you don't need to duplicate all the information on your CV, just pick out the highlights
- Use long words simply to impress. This won't give an accurate representation of yourself and you may misuse a word
If you are e-mailing
- Make sure your letter is written in a common font that is easy to read with standard formatting
- If you are attaching your CV and covering letter, remember to attach it!
We have also prepared a large section on click here for help with the process of applying to Jobs online
Don't just copy these letters, always make your letter individual to you and your potential employer. Remember you want to catch your reader's attention, stimulate interest and sell yourself.
Applying for an advertised vacancy example
14 High Street
Tel: (xxxxx) 123 456
21st September 2003
Ms Kate Bingford
14 Eastgate Road
Dear Ms Bingford,
Re: Human Resources Coordinator vacancy, Ref: HRC1
I write with reference to the above position advertised in The Harrow Post, 20/09/03.
As you will see from my enclosed CV I have a great deal of experience in all aspects of Human Resources. I feel that many of the skills I have gained would be well utilised in the role of Human Resources Coordinator.
I have extensive knowledge of reward management and in my last position at Jefferson Ltd. I helped to implement a new incentive scheme, which resulted in a 50% increase in productivity. I also have highly developed administration and interpersonal skills, which I believe would be invaluable in the role of Human Resources Coordinator.
I would greatly enjoy the working environment that a company such as IFG Communications would provide. As the largest employer in the Eastgate area, with over 200 employees, I feel that the role of Human Resources Coordinator would be one that would both stimulate and challenge, and as you will see from my experience these are circumstances under which I thrive.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I greatly look forward to hearing from you.
Speculative letter example
34 Hedge Road,
Norfolk, NR6 7GH
Thursday 4th March 2004
Mr Simon Cresswell
Norfolk N22 0XX
Dear Mr Cresswell,
I am writing to enquire whether you have a vacancy in your company for a Senior Business Development Manager. I enclose a copy of my CV for your consideration.
As you will see from my CV, I have 20 years experience in Business Development. In this time I have assisted Grayson UK Ltd. grow from a small UK based company to a globally competitive designer and manufacturer of high performance structured cabling connectivity and cable distribution products.
I have a great deal of experience in identification of new growth opportunities as well as new legal areas for development, which have lead to an overall increase in productivity.
I am keen to find a new challenge and am attracted to Aspen Initiatives as a young company with a rapidly increasing list of clients. I feel that with my experience in Business Development and Marketing I would be able to make a significant contribution to you company.
I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter further. I will telephone you next week to see if this is appropriate.
T : (xxxxx) 123 456
E : firstname.lastname@example.org
Applying for work experience example
76 Farthing Avenue
Phillips and Partners Accountants
24 Hayfield Way
Middlesex, HA5 8DF
Dear Ms Phillips,
I am writing to apply for a work experience placement at Phillips and Partners Accountants.
I have recently completed a joint honours degree in Business and German in which I attained a 1st. As you will see form my enclosed CV I studied modules in Personal and Business Finance as well as Business German. As a firm with number of German speaking clients, I feel that I would be able to contribute a great deal to Phillips and Partners Accountants.
Last summer I did work experience in a firm of chartered accountants. In this role I learned how to conduct audits, write contracts and keep books. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to further my knowledge of accountancy within a firm that focuses on European clients.
I must emphasise that I am not seeking paid employment at this stage, however any experience you can offer me will assist me to reach my ultimate goal of employment in Accountancy.
I will telephone you in a few days to introduce myself further. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
E-mail : email@example.com
Telephone : (xxxxx) 123 456
Mobile : (xxxxx) 123 457