Generally, as part of your application process you will be asked to provide CV and cover letter. A cover letter is a brief email or letter where you emphasise your relevant skills, experience and motivation for the role.
Below, you can find information about how to present and structure your cover letter.
Layout of your cover letter
A standard cover letter is either written in the body of an email, or sent as an attachment, as an A4 page. If you are sending it as an attachment convert it to PDF so that the formatting remains the same. Your cover letter should be short and to the point, approximately three to four paragraphs long, and no longer than one page.
If sending as an attachment:
- Include your address and the date on the top right hand corner
- Include the employer’s address on the left hand side
- Always address the cover letter to the recruiter/member of staff named in the job description. If there is no name given, you can address your email or letter to “Dear Sir/Madam”.
- Make sure to include the full, correct job title of the role to which you are applying. If there is a vacancy code mention this also, either in the subject title of your email, or in the body of the cover letter.
- Tell the employer why you are suitable for this job by outlining your skills and experience. You can draw on your educational background, work experience, volunteering and other extra-curricular activities to provide evidence of your suitability. Focus on the skills, competencies and experience specified in the job description and make sure that you refer to them in your paragraphs.
- Your cover letter should strike a balance between outlining why you match their criteria, and why this role and this company are of particular interest to you.
- Avoid generic statements such as “I have excellent communication and time management skills”. Always provide evidence for any statement you make. For example you can say “I have demonstrated excellent communication skills through regularly participating in debates held by the Hist Society in college, and through numerous class presentations”.
- Employers are interested to know why you chose them amongst others, and how you see yourself fitting into their company’s culture. Find out more about the company (projects, people, recent innovation etc.) and the job as this will help you to make a stronger application which emphasises your motivation.
- Use a closing paragraph to reiterate your interest in the role.
- There is no need to conclude by sharing your email address or mobile number in the cover letter, these details are in your CV.
- Avoid saying "I am available for interview at your convenience" as this is a given.
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 and I was very impressed by how helpful X and Y were. This cemented my interest in joining your organisation".
- 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 am very interested in your company's work in X area..."
- Include the key phrases or language included in the job description, company literature and website. In that way you will show that you speak the same language and that you will fit into their culture.
- Use a positive and enthusiastic tone throughout.
- Look for feedback on what you have written. Show draft forms, letters or CVs to your careers consultant and seek their opinion.
- Do not send dozens of applications with little tailoring. It is better to send less applications that are well executed than a high volume of generic applications, which employers can easily spot. Remember it is the quality, not the quantity of applications that count.
- If there is anything that you think the employer may be concerned about in your application address this in your cover letter directly. 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 along with your CV expressing an interest in a company should a position arise in the future. In this way the employer can keep you in mind should an opportunity arise to hire.
Disclosing a disability
Information about disclosing a disability can be found here: