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A covering letter is a great way for showing your motivation for applying to a particular job. Your CV will demonstrate your education, qualifications and experience but your covering letter will allow you to expand on why your skills and background make you a good candidate for the job.
It also gives you a chance to demonstrate your understanding of the employing organisation and how you relate to its values, ethos and aspirations.
Well-written covering letters are particularly effective for speculative applications outside a recruitment cycle.
Top tips for a cracking covering letter
Address your letter to a named person. If you don’t know who to send it to, call the company and ask for the name of the person who deals with recruitment. Not only will this ensure that it reaches the right person, it also gives you a contact name for a follow-up call or email.
Use a formal business template, showing both your address and the name and address of the recipient (unless you’re sending the letter within an email). Use ‘Yours sincerely’ to sign off the letter if you are addressing it to a particular person. If you are addressing the letter to an unknown person, (e.g. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’) sign it off with ‘Yours faithfully’.
Think like a recruiter
Consider what the employer wants to know. Focus on what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you.
Keep it short
Try and keep your covering letter to one page, with short and clearly themed paragraphs.
Check it out
It is vital you proofread your covering letter carefully and present it well.
What to include
The following format provides a useful overview for a letter:
- Briefly introduce yourself, state what position you’re applying for and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative letter, specify the type of work you’re looking for.
- Explain why you’re interested in this type of work, demonstrating an understanding of what it is likely to involve.
- Explain why you’re interested in working for this particular employer. Demonstrate enthusiasm and evidence of your research into such aspects as their successes, values and clients.
- Highlight the ways in which you’re suitable for this position. Provide evidence of your key strengths by referring to experience listed on your CV. Aim to show that your key strengths reflect the requirements of the employer and position.
- Take the opportunity, if necessary, to explain any anomalies in your background, such as any time gaps or any ways in which you don’t match the selection criteria. Perhaps explain how any hurdles you’ve encountered have helped you develop in a positive way.
- Indicate your availability for interview.
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