A cover letter is a single-page supplement to your CV which explains how you apply your skills and experience in further detail.
Cover letters are very important and should be sent with every CV and application form. Use it to sell yourself, highlight skills and attributes that you would bring to the job and that would enhance the team or business.
This, as much as your CV or application, is a great chance to show your potential future employer that they need to interview you.
A cover letter can be made up of three areas; the introduction, main body and conclusion. Sometimes getting started can be the hardest part, if this is the case for you, begin by writing the main body and go back to the introduction later.
Before you write your cover letter, research the company you are applying to –useful information will be on their website. If you know anyone in a similar field, talk to them about the industry sector or find out more about the company.
If possible always write to a named person. If you need to, phone the company and find out who to address it to.
A simple way to begin is to explain why you’re sending your CV to the recipient. For example, if you’re sending your CV in response to a job advertisement, your opening statement could be:
“Dear Ms Bloggs,
I am writing in response to the 2nd Engineer Officer position as advertised on your website. I am thrilled to submit my CV (see attached) for your consideration.”
Keep the message simple and direct to encourage the hiring manager to continue reading.
The main body should highlight the reasons the hiring manager should interview you, based on how your experience and qualifications relate to the position. Be specific, use the job description as a basis for setting out examples of how you put your skills into action.
Be polite, positively reiterate your interest in the position, say “thank you” in some way and be sure to include your contact information. For example,
“I believe this is a position I can greatly contribute to and look forward to discussing this further.
Thank you for taking the time to read my application.
[phone number and email here]”
TOP TIP: if you addressed the letter to someone, sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’ – if you started your letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, use ‘Yours faithfully’.
A speculative cover letter is sent with your CV to a company that isn’t advertising for staff but might have a vacancy coming up. If you are sending a speculative letter, you must research the company thoroughly, identifying a role or area that matches your skillset and identify the most relevant person to send your letter to. Do not send a general letter and CV asking if they have any vacancies – you will likely not get a response.
Be confident in your letter by telling them you will get back in touch with them to discuss further, preferably stating a date – and then make sure you stick to it and follow it up.
This information also relates to CVs
Many Cover Letters and CVs contain mistakes, such as an old mobile number or an incorrectly typed email address. Check the details, and when you’ve checked them, check them again, then ask someone you trust to check it!
Spelling and Grammar Errors
If spelling and grammar are not your strong points, ask someone else to read and check your CV for errors. If you are using Microsoft Word, make sure you have the UK spell checker on.
Quality not quantity
If you haven’t got much experience, try not to fill out your cover letter or CV with unnecessary information. Make them relevant, interesting and to the point.
If you have highlighted your skills, achievements or qualifications in your CV, make sure it is backed up by examples in your cover letter, not just repeated.
Readers of a cover letter will see through any attempts to make vague statements that might apply to anyone. Back up statements with examples.
For more information about finding a job have a look at our support page.
Find out how to:
- Complete an application form
- Write an effective CV