What is a cover letter?
When you're applying for a job, an employer gets the bulk of the information they need from your CV or application.
A cover (or covering) letter is an email or letter you send along with your application, so it shouldn't be a repeat of that.
Writing a covering letter is more like introducing yourself. It gives you an extra chance to sell yourself and show some personality.
Use it to make an employer excited to find out more about you and what you’ve got to offer.
Before you start
There’s no one-size-fits-all job cover letter – every employer and industry is different. That’s why personalising yours to fit each application is important.
The first thing to do is examine the job advert. You’re looking out for:
- Essential skills. For example, is the employer looking for communication skills? Do they need you to be great at maths? Do they want a good people manager?
- Experience. What qualifications and work experience have they asked for?
- Personal qualities. Have they mentioned things like being good with people or ambitious?
- Information about the company (you could also check their website and social media accounts)
These things help you tailor your cover letter so that you stand out.
When you start writing, highlight some of the skills and experience that they’ve mentioned to show how you fit the bill. Think about what you can tell them about yourself – what parts of your career so far will they be most interested in?
The perfect layout
Five things you need to check on your cover letter
Don't hit send before you check for:
Your cover letter should be no longer than a page. Keep your language short and snappy. Get straight to the point.
Who it's addressed to
If you can, address your cover letter to the person handling the job vacancy. If you don't know their name, try and use the correct job title.
Spelling, grammar and punctuation
Don't send a cover letter with errors on it. Do a final spell check and get a friend to read it over, too.
You don't need to include your age, religion, sexual preference or political affiliation. And there's no need to add a photo or your National Insurance number.
If you've lied on your cover letter, an employer will find out. Don't risk it.