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Covering letters

Covering letters

Covering letters

Recruiters are busy people. When faced with dozens, if not hundreds of CVs, they look for information which will help them to quickly identify the candidates which match their criteria. This is the purpose of your covering letter, to grab the attention of the recruiter and make them interested in finding out more about you by reading your CV.

The content of your covering letter is as important as your CV. It needs to be a concise précis of why you are an ideal candidate. It should clearly highlight how you meet the essential criteria and, importantly, demonstrate your motivation for both the role and the employer.

Structure is important. It should ideally be limited to one side of A4 and laid out in a business style. Your CV and covering letter should look like a professional package so you should use the same font and paper. Information should be set out in short paragraphs to make it easy to read.

Don’t ‘cut and paste’ sections of your CV into the letter. The recruiter doesn’t want to read the same details twice. The aim is to draw their attention to the detail by providing them with interesting highlights.

There are two main types of covering letter: one which accompanies an application for an advertised vacancy; the other for use when writing speculatively to employers which interest you.

Checklist

Covering letter for advertised roles: 

  • Start by stating clearly what role you are applying for and where and when you saw the advertisement.
  • Go on to explain why you are an ideal candidate by referring to specific evidence in your CV. Demonstrate how your skills and experience match the essential criteria.
  • Target your information to the role and be enthusiastic about it.
  • Be concise, but still use the STAR technique to write your evidence.
  • Explain your motivation for applying. Do your research on the employer and refer to positive information about them, but don’t copy text from their website.

Covering letter for speculative roles:

  • Why are you applying to this employer? Why might they need you? Research the organisation thoroughly and use the information to explain your motivation for applying to them at the beginning of the letter.
  • Specify the type of position you are looking for and when you are hoping to start.
  • Explain what you can offer them, as opposed to what you can gain or want.
  • Focus on your skills and experience which can be directly related to the work of the employer. Look at any job adverts they have placed in the past to give you information on their usual requirements.
  • Show how you could make an immediate contribution to their business by including examples using the STAR technique
  • Send your application to a named person. If you are unsure who this should be, phone the organisation and ask.