When you apply for a job, your potential employer will have all of your details and information on your C.V., so it may seem that a covering letter is something of a pointless formality. However, a great covering letter can really help your application as it offers you a chance to sell yourself to an employer or maybe show a little of your personality. Think of your covering letter as an introduction where you can also highlight a few things before the employer gets to your C.V. or application. However, just as there are a wide range of jobs out there, so your covering letter needs to match each one you apply for. Tailoring your covering letter to match the employer and the job you are applying for is important, but while we can’t write your covering letter for you, this step-by-step guide should make things easier.
Before you start typing out the covering letter you need to do a little research into the company you are applying to and the role itself. Use the job advert to see what skills and personal qualities the employer is looking for, as well as any experience they want you to have. You can check these against your own background to see how you match up. Also look up any information that you can about the company itself - try their website, if they have one.
- Starting Your Letter
Now that you have some information you are ready to start your covering letter. Include a line with the name of the job you are applying for and any reference numbers included in the job description. This will make it easier for the employer to match your application with the right role (they may be recruiting for more than one).
You should also say where you heard about the job (employers like to know where their job ads are being seen), and mention any documents that you have attached (an application form or your C.V., for example). If you are sending a speculative letter rather than applying for a specific role, you should mention what sort of position you are interested in.
- Why You Want The Job
Once you have said what job you are applying for it is time to explain why you want it. ‘For the money’ is not good enough (even if it’s true), so instead think about why you want to work for that particular employer, what excites you about the role (apart from the salary), and how it fits with your career plans. You want to sound keen to do that exact job – which of course is easier if you are!
- Sell Yourself!
Now it is time to sell yourself. Highlight the skills and experience that you have from the research you did earlier. Use the same language as in the job description where you can as this will help employers pick it out easily. This is particularly true for those employers who do computerised scans of applications looking for keywords. Try to tell the employer about the parts of your career or experience that is most relevant to the job and that they will be interested in, and don’t forget to mention the skills you have that employers might want.
Remember, you want to raise their interest to find out more by inviting you along to an interview, not tell them your life story. Also, don’t be tempted to lie, honesty is the best policy when it comes to applications.
- Close The Gaps
If you have gaps in your C.V. for any reason (there is plenty of C.V. writing advice out there), or are looking at changing career totally, you might want to briefly explain those now. Keep it short.
- Signing Off
Finish by saying that you look forward to hearing back from them and that you hope to be able to discuss the role further. If there are any dates you won’t be available for interview, mention them now. If you have addressed your letter to a particular person by name then you should finish ‘yours sincerely.’ If you are sending the letter to a ‘sir / madam’ whose name you don’t know, end with ‘yours faithfully.’
- Don’t Forget The Contact Details!
There is no point sending a covering letter without your contact details, and how you do this depends on how you are sending your letter. If you are sending your covering letter as an email then include your contact details as a signature at the bottom of the screen. Include your name, address, telephone number, and email (make sure it’s appropriate!). You might want to include a LinkedIn profile or Twitter name too – but again, only if they are professional!
If you are attaching the covering letter as a document or sending a physical copy, then you will want to add your contact details as with a standard letter. That is by putting your name and address in the top right hand corner, with the company’s name and address below this and to the left of the page.