A covering letter is used to draw attention to your CV. Your covering letter states your motivation and adaptability.
A covering letter should:
- show the employer your interest in and knowledge of the company
- highlight sections of your CV that are your particular selling points
- highlight additional information that does not fit easily into a CV
- explain any personal circumstances or anomalies in your application which may be of interest to the employer
Well-written covering letters are essential for speculative applications - to explain why you are approaching a company which does not have any obvious vacancies. You can download a document detailing our recommended format for covering letters below.
Treat your covering letter as a formal business letter. It should not be more than one page long:
- Find out who deals with recruitment and address your letter to that named person. This will ensure you reach the right person and have a contact name for further correspondence.
- Include a "Reference: …" line including the job title and reference number
- Tell the employer what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you.
- Use short and clearly themed paragraphs and try matching the styling with that of your CV – justifying your text for neatness.
The following format provides a useful overview for a letter:
1. State for which position you're applying and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative letter, specify the type of work you're looking for. Introduce yourself (e.g. year of study, university, degree subject, graduation year and degree classification).
2. Explain why you're interested in working for this particular employer. Demonstrate enthusiasm and evidence of research into their past/recent successes, involvements, values, clients, etc. Explain why you're interested in this type of work, demonstrating an understanding of what it's likely to involve.
3. Highlight the ways in which you're suitable for this position. Provide evidence of your key strengths and how they reflect the requirements of the employer and position. Refer to relevant experience listed on your CV.
4. Describe your career development/ambitions, and tie these in to the activities and interests of the employer.
5. Conclude positively and enthusiastically. Summarise and highlight your interest in the company and how this job fits into your long-term plans. Indicate your availability for interview.
Our virtual library contains a wide range of up to date and recommended materials to help you further in your career-related activities. This section allows you to link to the resources we have available on writing covering letters.