Writing A Covering Letter
What is the purpose of a Cover Letter?
- To give an overview of your suitability in terms of skills, strengths and experience which relate to the job advertised.
- A chance for you to stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of being chosen for interview.
What is the format?
A standard format for the covering letter:
- One A4 page, attached to an email (pdf format) or an equivalent length of text included in the body of an email.
- Refers to where you identified the job: "I enclose my CV in response to your advertisement in..."
Outlines your current situation: "I am due to graduate with a X degree in 20yy".
- Highlights your suitability. Reflect the needs of the company as outlined in the advertisement or job description and indicate your 'match' of skills, qualities and experience.
- Display a positive and enthusiastic tone throughout.
- Concludes "I am available for interview at your convenience' or 'between dates X and Y'".
- If you can scan your signature.
Pointers for Success
- Address the letter to a particular person by name. Phone to find this out if necessary.
- Communicate something personal that will grab their attention, e.g. "My project work put me in contact with X division in your company".
- Answer the question 'Why should I interview you?' and address it through your letter.
- Research the company, their culture, values, interests and recent achievements. Demonstrate knowledge of the company in a complimentary way in the letter. "Having done extensive research on X I was very impressed by your company's ..."
- Include the key phrases or language of the employer as indicated in the job description or company literature and website. In that way you will show that you speak the same language and that you will fit into their culture.
- Look for feedback on what you have written. Show draft forms, letters or CVs to your careers adviser and seek their opinion. Remember it is quality applications that count.
- If you have an issue surrounding health you could mention it briefly in the letter accompanying your CV. It should be done positively, highlighting gains made. Think about the transferable skills required - living with a health problem may have helped you offer these (eg problem-solving approach, overcoming difficulties, and perseverance). So say so!
- Mature applicants may need to challenge overt prejudice eg. stated age limit in an advertisement. If you see a job of interest to you, consider applying and countering the ageism in the opening sentence "I have experience, skills, abilities which make me ideal despite being a mature applicant". Emphasise your ability to work in a mixed-age environment eg. other students/academics younger than yourself. Highlight the multi-skilled approach an adult with family responsibilities brings to degree studies and sell your recent and relevant experience above all.
- If there is anything that you think the employer may be concerned about in your application address this in your cover letter directly. Perhaps, if your experience lies in another area you could say "While I have experience in A area I did gain expertise in X, Y, Z and I am flexible and willing to learn". If you had a period of unemployment refer to the creative way that you spent your time and the skills you acquired during that time.
- You may also send out a speculative letter with your CV expressing an interest in the company should a position arise in the future. In this way the employer can keep you in mind should an opportunity arise to hire.
Sample Cover Letter
Sample cover letter
- Attend the CV Workshop which includes cover letters.
- Gradireland.com - Ireland's graduate website has a detailed section on applications.
- Prospects.ac.uk - UK graduate website with lots of useful advice on applications.
- Targetjobs.co.uk - UK website with useful advice on applications.
More related Resources are available