Writing a cover letter

The covering letter



While your CV (resume) is a summary of your qualifications and achievements, your covering letter is essentially a sales pitch. The aim is to demonstrate why your skills and background are a perfect match for the advertised position.

The letter should be concise, written in the same positive and vigorous language as your CV and printed on the same type of paper. In three or four paragraphs, you need to show you understand the company you are applying to and what they want from you.

    • Always address your letter to a specific person, never ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’


    • Unlike your CV, recruiters prefer covering letters written in the first person (I). However, vary the opening sentence of each paragraph


    • The first paragraph should explicitly state what position you are applying for and how you found out about it


    • In the second paragraph, show how your skills make you a strong candidate for the position. Stress what you can do for the employer, not what a career at their company can do for you


    • Show you’ve done some research on the company, but be sure to check your facts. An effective way to convey genuine long-term interest in a company is to draw attention to some positive company news, such as a recent deal or share price rise


    • Every word should be devoted to making a compelling case for why you should get the job. Avoid cliches, long-winded phrases and technical jargon. The person reading your covering letter may be a human resources officer with no specialist knowledge and hundreds of applications to wade through, rather than your potential line manager


    • Adopt a serious and professional tone, resisting the temptation to get the reader’s attention by joking or including phrases that end with an exclamation mark


    • Stating that you possess ‘excellent interpersonal skills’, or that you are ‘a self-starter’ means nothing to the employer without proof or an example. Recruiters find text peppered with buzzwords and unsubstantiated claims wearisome


    • If applying to several companies at once make sure you change the name of the company and position advertised in the body of you letter. It is surprisingly easy to overlook


    • Keep copies of covering letters to refer to if you are called for an interview, so you can make sure what you say about yourself in the application and interview is compatible



End with a positive statement listing your contact details and availability. An effective tactic in certain situations is to write that you’ll call to follow up your application.


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