Cover Letter

Cover Letter AdviceThe objective of the cover letter is to present a brief overview of yourself to the employer. By presenting your personal information in a coherent format, your objective is to convince the employer that your skills are valuable to the employer. 

Cover Letter AdviceWhenever possible, send a covering letter with your CV. That will give you an opportunity to provide extra information, express your interest in the job, and do a sales pitch for your skills and experience.

When applying by email, put your covering letter in the body of the email. If you attach it with nothing in the email body it may be misidentified as junk mail.


  • Always tailor your covering letter to the specific role.
  • Show you have researched the role, the organisation and the industry.
  • Outline why you are attracted to the specific opportunity.
  • Highlight your unique selling points.

There are several scenarios where you may need to write a covering letter for your CV. The main reason - it looks more professional. If a recruitment agency or an employer received anything in the post (a CV, promotional material, etc) without a brief covering letter explaining its purpose, they will instantly think less of it.

Covering letters will also serve as a reference for your contact details. Also, it demonstrates your writing style better than your CV (which is usually more brief and factual).

Cover letter points out to the employer the information showing that you have the qualities the job calls for, and makes a statement about yourself and your suitability for the job. It should give the personal touch that your CV will intrinsically lack.

Also, it is a further opportunity to market yourself. You can put your skills and ambitions into a better context within your covering letters as they are more personal than your CV (which is basically just stripping the glossy stuff away to the essentials).

When you should include cover letter?

1. When sending your CV to recruitment agencies (you have to let them know what kind of work you are looking for).

2. When enquiring about possible job vacancies with an employer. When applying for advertised jobs that request you send your CV to the employer.

General rules for writing cover letter

Your covering letter should be a professional layout and you should refer to the contact as Sir or Madam if you do not know the name of the contact in the organization. Your covering letter should be no more than one page long (it's a covering letter not an essay – you don't want to bore the person who is about to read your CV).

Try to find the name of the person to write to. Research by Forum found that those who included a letter with their CV were 10% more likely to receive a reply and those who addressed the covering letter and envelope to the correct named person were 15% more likely to receive a letter of acknowledgement and 5% more likely to gain an interview. They also found that 60% of CVs are mailed to the wrong person, with the managing director being the main beneficiary of the unsolicited mail.

- Your cover letter should be easy to read – use small paragraphs to break up the text. Keep it clear, concise and to the point.

- Include all your contact details on it, along with the date it was sent out.

- Do not repeat what is said in your CV. Use the covering letter to elaborate on details that are only briefly covered in your CV.

- When elaborating on your skills, you should both reflect on your own experience and relate them to the skills asked for in the job advert. Use of action verbs can help to make it sound better.

- Use plain white paper. It's OK to print your letter on expensive cream or pale blue paper, but content and layout are far more important. Use the same colour for your CV. Do not use lined paper or paper with punched holes.

- Avoid lengthy letters exceeding 1 page. Most cover letters consist of 3 paragraphs. If you really need more space, first check what you've written for clarity and information, and delete unnecessary material. Don't exceed the one page rule unless absolutely unavoidable, and even then, try to keep it brief.
- Use your own words not formal long-winded clichés.

- Spell-check and then double-check your spelling and grammar. Spell checkers will not pick up form instead of from or sex instead of six.

- You might include your understanding of the work/knowledge of the company, and how you fit the criteria required. "I have a real interest in working as a ...." will not do: you must say why you decided to pursue this career, what first brought it to your attention, why you as a History student should be interested in a career in energy industry.

- Relate your skills to the job. Show the employer that you have obtained the communicating, team working, problem solving and leadership or other skills that are appropriate for the job. See Useful words and phrases.

- Say when you are available to start work (and end, if it's a placement): be as flexible as possible.

- When closing the letter, finish with "Yours Sincerely" or "Kind Regards"


- Use one page of A4 paper and four or five paragraphs.

- Address your letter to a named person, even if you have to contact the organisation to ask who deals with recruitment.

- Include your contact details and the employer's (including their title).

- Make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect.

- Use a professional tone.


- Use the following format as a guide for your letter. You may also want to include an extra paragraph to explain any personal circumstances or anomalies such as low grades or a career change.

Paragraph 1: a positive, formal introduction outlining how you heard about the opportunity, listing the documents you have enclosed (such as your CV).

Paragraph 2: outline why you are interested in the role and the organisation, demonstrating in depth research. This should make a relationship between the job and your career, explaining your interest in the position and how it relates to your CV.

Paragraph 3: highlight your key skills and experiences.

Paragraph 4: end positively outlining when you will be available for interview.

Disclosure of disability

Legally, you do not have to declare your disability before you start a new job, but failure to do so on an application or medical form, when you are specifically asked, could give rise to dismissal later on.

If you decide to disclose, stress your positive attributes and outline the benefits of your disability, for example:

highlight your relevant skills;
outline the extra skills you have gained as a result of your disability.

In your covering letter you could also give examples of how you have successfully dealt with challenges in the past brought on by your disability.

Cover letters for recruitment agencies

When sending your CV to a recruitment agency, you should include a covering letter to let them know what kind of work you are looking for.

You are helping them out, so (hopefully) they will help you out in return. By carefully wording your desired career goals, you can save them the time of finding out that information from you (which they will have to do anyway in order to find you a job).

Instead of, "So, what kind of work are you looking for?" when you meet them or speak with them, it will be, "I see that you are interested in xxxxx".

From here it will either be, "We currently have a position available that may be of interest to you", or "We don't have anything along that line just now.

If they do not have the job you are looking for, then ask them what kind of jobs that they do have available (if they can get you in a job, then they will – that's how they make their money).

When you originally contact an agency you should state your preference (if any) between permanent and temporary work and give an idea of what kind of job role you are looking for.

It should be noted at this point that if you state specific job titles, then you may be limiting your possibilities (after something else may come along that you would like, but not be offered because you didn't specify it). If you don't have the experience for a particular job then it may be worthwhile keeping your options open for possibilities that may lead to you ideal job.

For example, instead of saying you want break into web design, say you are IT literate and have an interest and particularly good range of web related skills. This way, you will be considered for work in many job roles (and I can't emphasise enough the importance of getting a broad range of experience is for many careers).

However, if you are experienced in your particular field, stating exactly what you want to do from the start will be ultimately be more beneficial, as you are less likely to be offered something that is inappropriate for you.

Enquiring about possible job vacancies

You are using the opportunity to market yourself directly to employers. Using this method has its advantages.

Chances are you will receive some feedback (at the very least they will keep your CV, but they may also direct you to their own recruitment process, eg their website). You are cutting out the middle man (if you happen to contact an employer that has a position that would suit you, then you are saving them cost of advertising and recruitment).

Even if you do not get any response, you are still covering all the bases in the recruitment process (there is only so much you can do – you have to do everything you can to give yourself the best opportunity for success.

When writing your covering letter to employers, be sure to direct it to the HR Manager or Office Manager. This way you know at least it is going to the relevant person (chances are that they won't read it, but it will be filed in the appropriate place for future reference and not be passed from department to department where it may be lost).

Similar to your letter to recruitment agencies, you should specify what type of role you want. If you do not know what you want to do, then use the letter to briefly elaborate on your skills and what you think you would be good at and ask if they have any suitable vacancies.

When targeting employers, choose ones that you would want to work for. Decide upon your reasons for your choice and explain them in your letter, along with what you can offer.

Applying for advertised jobs

When applying for advertised jobs, your covering letters should, again, state why you are the best person for the job, relating the information in the job description to your experience and skills.

You should make special note of what the requirements are in the job specification and reflect this in your CV.

Your covering letter, however, should be brief, professional and be directed to person stated on the job advert. At the end of the day, the employer is only going to look at CV's in this case.


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