Covering letters

Covering letters

A covering letter accompanies your CV and provides you with a space to bring your skills and experiences to life. It explains to the recruiter why you are interested in and suitable for their vacancy. Recruiters use both the CV and covering letter to assess your suitability so both are important.  Our top tips and mini course will take you through the processes of creating a great covering letter.

Top Tips
  • Always send a covering letter: Never send a CV without a covering letter – unless your CV is uploaded to an online application, recruitment website or agency.
  • Never send the same letter twice: Tailor each letter to demonstrate your motivation and your research of the organisation to which you are applying. 
  • Make it professional: It is important that you use a professional business format and double check to eradicate any spelling or grammatical errors. The University recommends Grammarly for proof reading software.
  • Make it work for you: The covering letter is an opportunity to summarise your suitability, draw attention to key aspects of your experience that you particularly want the employer to know about you.
Covering letter format

Your letter should follow the formal business letter layout which includes a date and address blocks at the top (although you can sometimes omit this if you are upoloading your letter to an online application form) and a signature at the bottom. Aim for a neat and professional look. Your letter should:

  • Be no longer than one page A4 (unless applying for an academic position).
  • Use the same font style and size as your CV.

For more information on the layout of your letter, have a look at our covering letter format.

If you are applying by email, you have the option of pasting your letter into the body of the email. In this case, you should aim for an even shorter letter. Use the job title and/or reference number as the subject line and omit the addresses. It can be neater to attach your covering letter as a separate document (or merged with your CV to create one 3-page document). Your email should then consist of a simple paragraph which summarises your suitability, demonstrates your motivation and refers the employer to the attachment(s).

What to include

Covering letters generally consist of four or five paragraphs:

  • Opening paragraph – Explain why you are writing and briefly introduce yourself.
  • About the employer – Demonstrate a knowledge of the organisation by explaining what draws you to apply to them such as areas of specialisation, values and ethos, or training on offer.
  • About you – Match yourself to the requirements of the job and demonstrate your skills using your work experience, studies and interests. Cross-reference with your CV by using specific job or course titles, employer names etc.
  • Final paragraph – Confidently summarise your suitability and end positively with what you hope to contribute going forward.

Sign your letter off with "Yours sincerely" if you have a contact name ("Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms…") and "Yours faithfully" if you do not ("Dear Sir/Madam").

Get feedback

Once you have drafted your covering letter and double checked the spelling and grammar, we can give you some feedback on the content, layout and impact of your letter.