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Covering letters

Preparation

When applying for a job you should check the instructions carefully to see what the employer is asking for, such as a CV and covering letter, or an application form.

Before you write your application:

  • check the requirements for the role – these will normally be listed in a job description or person specification – and think about how you can show that you have them
  • research the organisation, so that you can explain why you’re suited to work there
  • check that your CV covers all the requirements, and tailor it if necessary

What to include

If the employer asks for a CV, you should also write a covering letter that is tailored for the role. This is your opportunity to say how you meet the requirements for the role. It should show that you understand what the employer is looking for and that you know about the organisation.

Include:

  • your contact details
  • which role you’re applying for
  • why you’re interested in the role
  • how you meet the requirements for the role
  • relevant skills and experience
  • reference to relevant parts of your CV
  • any specific information that the employer asks for, such as salary expectations

Check the advert and the job description, and make sure that your covering letter includes all of the requirements if possible. Give evidence to back up your claims. Do not just say that you are good at team working or research – give an example, such as a project you have worked on.

End the letter on a positive note, saying when you're available for interview and that you look forward to hearing from them.

Format

Your covering letter should be concise – around one page.

You may want to send it as a Word attachment, rather than simply an email. You should make sure it is well laid out, with a consistent format and a clear font. Check carefully for spelling mistakes or other errors.

Address your letter to an individual if possible.

Application forms

Many organisations recruit using application forms rather than CVs and covering letters. This means they can ask specific questions and easily compare applications.

Application forms are designed to get the right amount of information to make a decision, so the recruiter will normally ignore anything else you provide. Often they will have a word limit for each question. However, you should be able to use information from your CV, such as your work history and your skills, to complete the form.

Read through the form carefully and follow the instructions. Be clear and concise, and make sure you provide evidence of how you meet the requirements for the role.

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