Top Tips

  • Never send the same letter twice – Tailor each letter to demonstrate your motivation and your level of research.
  • Show off your experience – Draw on all areas of your life to demonstrate your skills and achievements, not just your work experience.
  • Cross-reference with your CV –Make it easy for employers to find more information on your CV by using employer names, course titles etc.
  • Look professional – Follow the business letter format and keep to one page of A4.
  • Check it and get it checked – It is your job to get rid of any spelling and grammatical errors. We will be happy to give you feedback on all other aspects of your covering letters.
The Basics

Your covering letter is as important as your CV. It is designed to draw attention to particularly relevant sections of your CV.

Covering letters give you the chance to:

  • Demonstrate your interest in, and knowledge of, the specific employer and job.
  • Highlight relevant skills and experience.
  • Point out additional information, such as future plans, which cannot be easily included on your CV.
  • Explain any personal circumstances (such as periods of illness) which may be of relevance to the employer.

Never send a CV without a covering letter – unless your CV is uploaded to an online application, recruitment website or agency – and never send the same covering letter twice. Tailor each letter to the specific employer and opportunity on offer.

Covering letters are particularly important for speculative applications, so you can explain why you are approaching an employer who does not have any advertised vacancies.

What Should I Include?

Covering letters generally consist of four paragraphs:

  • Opening paragraph – Clearly state for which post you are applying (or explain what you are interested in for speculative applications) and briefly introduce yourself.
  • About the employer – Give specific reasons for your application to this employer such as areas of specialisation, size, or training on offer, and to the type of work. Ideally, find links between you and the employer.
  • 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 sum up your suitability and your interest in the position. If necessary, indicate your availability for interview.

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").

For more tips on what to include in each paragraph, have a look at our covering letters leaflet.

What Should It Look Like?

Your letter should follow the formal business letter layout which includes address blocks and date at the top and a signature at the bottom.

Aim for a neat and professional look. Your letter should:

  • Be no longer than one page A4
  • Use the same font style and size as your CV
  • Have justified margins

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).

How to Get Feedback

We will be happy to provide you with feedback on the content, layout and impact of your covering letters. It is best to write one letter, ask for feedback and take this on board before writing more applications.

We will not correct spelling and grammatical errors for you. Ask friends and family to help with this if you are struggling.