How to write a Covering Letter

Written by: Gwyneth Holland
Published on: 6 Feb 2019

    The main purpose of a covering letter is to present your CV in support of your job application. This may be obvious, but it’s surprising how many people appear to think that a covering letter needs to be long and complicated, and somehow justify its own existence... They create a covering letter which repeats all the information in the CV only in different words.

    In fact, a covering letter needs to be quite short and certainly never more than one side of A4. It should present your CV, show the employers that you want the job and explains anything relevant which might not otherwise be apparent.

    Never send a covering letter which says ‘I enclose my CV, from which you will see ………….’ The employers can work out for themselves what is in the CV and they certainly don’t need telling the same thing twice. If you have followed all the correct advice and are presenting a good CV, then let it speak for itself. Remember; the time allocated to considering your application will probably take in both the CV and covering letter, so don’t waste any of that valuable time.

    Be careful that you address the letter exactly as you have been instructed to. Although many letter writing conventions are now seen to be old fashioned, there is still no excuse for bad manners. For example, you should not address somebody by their first name unless you have been invited to do so.

    If the instructions are to send the letter ‘for the attention of…’ then nowadays it is OK to put ‘Dear [full name]’ at the beginning of the letter. In this case you should end the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’.

    Before starting to write the letter do some research so that you can have some background information about the organisation you are applying to. It’s really easy to go on their website and find out more about them. This will help not only with your covering letter, but also when it comes to an interview.

    Beware of making your covering letter look like a duplicated letter that has been sent out for a number of different jobs. The best thing to do is to create a generic covering letter which can be ‘personalised’ for each individual job application.

    Use the title of the job and where it has been advertised as the subject matter of the letter.

    You can then start the letter by saying ‘I enclose my CV in support of my application for the above position’. Go on to say why you believe you are particularly well suited to this role. Try to identify some specific skills or experience that you have which make you a strong candidate.

    Say what it is about the job that appeals to you and why you would like to be considered. Then you can use the research that you did earlier to identify reasons why you would like to work for their organisation. Say something positive about them – there’s nothing wrong with a little flattery as long as you don’t overdo it.

    Use the covering letter to explain anything which might otherwise raise a question. An example of this might be if the job you were applying for involved travelling, when you could say that you were happy to relocate as necessary.

    Make the letter very positive and make sure that give the impression that you actually want that particular job. Keep it businesslike and remember that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement so avoid appearing too humble.

    When you have finished writing the covering letter, read it through very carefully. Check for spelling mistakes, or ask somebody else to do so if you are unsure, and don’t forget to enclose your CV. Use good quality paper and remember that a stamped addressed envelope for the benefit of their reply is usually a good idea.