Covering letters

You should always send a covering letter with your CV. This letter will usually be the first thing anyone reads about you, so it needs to make a good impression. It must always be original and tailored to each application.

The aim of your letter is to gain the reader’s attention and arouse their curiosity so that they want to know more about you.

What your letter needs to show

You know about the organisation

It is essential to show that you know about the organisation you are applying to, so research the company before you write your letter. Mention that you have visited the company website or anything else that would demonstrate an active interest in them and their line of business

You are interested in and suitable for the job

Explain why you are interested in the job, and suggest why you think that you would be especially suitable for the job.

You have the skills and qualifications to do the job

If you are replying to an advertisement that specifies certain qualities or qualifications, make sure that you show how you meet them and be as positive as you can. Even if you feel that you do not fully meet every specification try and provide evidence of comparable skills and experience.

If you are replying to an advertisement, quote the job title and reference number and mention where you saw the advertisement.

Always remember: if you are writing to someone whose name you know then sign off with 'yours sincerely'. If you don’t know the name, sign off with 'yours faithfully'.

Achieve maximum impact

To achieve maximum impact your letter should be:

  • Printed on good quality paper. Use the same paper for your CV. Do not use brightly coloured paper or ruled paper.
  • No longer than one A4 page.
  • Typed, unless the job advertisement asks for a written letter, or your handwriting is a selling point.
  • Personalised. Find out the name and the job title of the person to whom you are writing. If you are unsure, telephone the company. If it is a woman, check whether she is Miss, Mrs or Ms.  Only use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ if you have no other option.
  • Using verbs indicating action such as: achieved, developed, organised, produced, persuaded, rather than saying, I did.
  • Businesslike. This does not mean being pompous or using jargon: simply be clear and to the point.
  • Carefully checked for the correct use of grammar and spelling. Never rely on spell-check alone to do this.

Stay organised

Remember to keep copies of your letters and CV or application forms, so that you have a record of what you wrote and can remind yourself of this before your interview.

Get your covering letter checked

Contact your local careers centre to book an appointment.

Resources

Career video player

Find out more about writing CVs and covering letters, and preparing for interviews and assessment centres. UoB login required.

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