Cover letters

What are they?

A cover letter is a letter that you send to accompany your CV when you apply for a job.

This is your chance to introduce yourself and explain what position you’re applying for, why you want the job and what you have to offer. Always make sure you match what the employer is looking for.

It can feel a bit uncomfortable writing a document singing your own praises, or you can be over-enthusiastic about your achievements and come across as self-assured or cocky. Stick to the facts and use the job description and person specification as a template for your letter.

Ten top tips

  1. Show the company you have done some good research about them.
  2. Provide evidence that you can fulfil what is requested in the job specification.
  3. Address the letter to a specific person (if possible) and sign it Yours Sincerely.
  4. Make it targeted to the job role and the company.
  5. Follow the format of a business letter, never use slang or abbreviations.
  6. Make it clear, concise and to the point.
  7. If emailed, put your covering letter in the body of the email.
  8. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to tell the employer what you are going to bring to their business.
  9. Make sure you have included all your up to date contact details and check your spelling!
  10. Tailor your CV to suit the role that you’re applying for.

You might some of these websites helpful:

National Careers Service
Provides careers advice and information on a wide range of jobs, training course resources and funding

Reed
Cover letter support from the UK’s top job site

Do’s and don’ts

Do address your letter to the name of the person wherever possible. Double and triple-check the job advert for a named contact or for extra points, call the company and ask who you should address the letter to.

Do use your opening paragraph to cover why you are applying for the position. Steer clear of statements like ‘because I feel I have the right skills and experience for this role’ and swap them for statements which show you have researched the company’s values and direction, for example: “I would like to bring my existing skills to a company who value people and works together with the aim of providing the highest possible service to customers.”

You should then address the attributes and skills requested in the job description, giving examples of how you can fulfil them using previous experience rather than sweeping statements like, ‘I am a fantastic customer service agent’.

Once you have addressed the job description, use your final few lines to mention anything not in the application / your CV that are relevant to the job. Ensure your letter reads like you have written it directly to this person. Have a look at Glassdoor’s blog for advice on a powerful ending to your cover letters.

  • Make sure your cover letter is in the same font and type size as your CV.
  • Don’t be tempted to increase the font size or line spacing to cover up for a lack of information.
  • Use formal English. For a guide on formal English, click here.

Just like your CV, your cover letter should be written by you. It is your voice and your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

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