Careers: Cover Letters
Note: this section is not intended to replace advice given by a careers guidance service. If you have access to a guidance & information service, you should make use of that: advice from a dedicated and specialist service is always better.
Most job applications involving sending a CV and cover letter. The cover letter summaries your most important skills and abilities and should demonstrate why you are suitable for the position. The cover letter is important because it'll probably be the first thing that your potential employer will see and first impressions do count for a lot. If your cover letter doesn't make a good impression, chances are that your CV will not be read.
There are many sites to offer advice on writing cover letters - see the Links and Resouces page for a few such cover letter sites, or just search the web for "cover letter"
Your letter should be structured in 3 parts:
- Introduction - this should include
- the position that you are applying for
- where you saw the job advertised
- Main body - where you show that you are a good fit for the job
- highlight your qualities, qualifications or experience that strongly relate to the advertised positions such as:
- academic achievements
- work experience
- work skills
- personal achievements
- Use the same key words that are used in the job description
- Concluding paragraph
- Summarise in one sentence why you are a good match for the position
- Thank the reader for their time and consideration
- Say that your CV is enclosed
Here's what it should look like.
[Your address Line 1]
[Address Line 2]
[Address Line 3]
[Company address line 1]
[Company address line 2]
Application for [name of the role]
Your opening paragraph should be brief and consist of why you’re writing the letter, the position you’re applying for,and where or how you found out about the position. For example: “I am writing to apply for the role of [job title], in response to your advert I saw on [job advert location and date].
The second paragraph states your skills, experience, qualities and qualifications that are relevant to the needs of the job. You highlight those attributes and state how they match the open position. Use words directly from the job description; if the job description requires applicants to have two years experience working as a car mechanic and you have two years experience working as a car mechanic, then you say this here.
Briefly restate why you are a good fit for the job. Thank the reader for taking the time to read your letter. State that your CV is enclosed and that you hope to hear from them soon. Sign off with:
Some do's and and don'ts
- Avoid typos. Proofread your letter separately for spelling and grammar. Ask a friend to have a look at your letter. Many potential employers will stop reading as soon as they see a typo
- If you have access to a guidance & information service, have your letter reviewed by an advisor
- Print your letter on good quality paper
- Keep your cover letter short - it should fit on one side of a A4 sheet
- Tailor the letter to the job - say why your experience makes you a good fit for that job; don't just use the same stock response for each application
- Be positive - don't mention qualities, qualifications or experience that you don't have, emphasise those that you do have
- Use "action" verbs (verbs that describe mental or physical action) like "accomplished", "developed" "managed" "organised" "achieved"
- Don't overuse the word "I"
- Don't use informal language
- Don't copy your CV - highlight what makes you a good fit for the position