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Covering letter advice

When you apply for a job, you should always include a covering letter with your application. A covering letter provides you with an opportunity to promote yourself to an employer and present your application in context.

When you are writing your covering letter, you should consider the employer's point of view and base your response around the question "what can this individual do for me?". You should customise your covering letter to each job you apply for. As with CVs and application forms, there are some basic guidelines to follow when writing a covering letter. You should:

  • Address your covering letter to the relevant person in the organisation. If you do not know their name, call the company to find out;
  • Use a clear heading, which refers to the title of the job, a reference number, the title of the publication it appeared in and the date of that publication. If you saw the vacancy advertised online, state the name of the website you saw it on, the reference number and the date the vacancy was posted;
  • State who you are and why you are writing. If someone referred you to the organisation, include this in your opening paragraph;
  • Mention what you are enclosing or attaching if applying by email;
  • Be clear about why you are applying for that particular role at that particular company;
  • State how you meet the employer's needs. One way to do this is by picking out the main responsibility they are looking for and give an example of why you are the person they are looking for;
  • Keep your covering letter brief; about three or four paragraphs and no longer than one side of A4;
  • Ensure that you are not too familiar in your letter;
  • Mention when you are available for interview;
  • Keep your letter positive;
  • Check your grammar and spelling;
  • Ensure you do not repeat information in your CV or application form;
  • Ensure that you do not use jargon, abbreviations, acronyms or terminology that employers might not understand;
  • Ensure that you do not use "I" too much as this may give the employer the impression that you have not considered them;
  • Use the same font that you used on your CV or application form if you word processed the document;
  • Use the same good quality paper as you did with your CV if you are printing the letter.