Cover letters

CVs are almost always accompanied by a well written and targeted cover letter. A cover letter is as much a part of your marketing strategy as your CV. Your cover letter and CV are likely to be the first contact you have with an employer and it is estimated that you have a little more than 30 seconds to make a good impression.

Why include a cover a letter?

A cover letter is an opportunity to impress a potential employer with your enthusiasm and ambition. It should generate interest and motivate the employer to want to know more about you. They can be a major determinant of success and are particularly critical for speculative applications. Always personalise your letter by sending it to a named person rather than 'Dear Sir / Madam'.

What information is needed and how should it be laid out?

  • Try to present your unique selling points in a creative and interesting way
  • Use only one side of A4 and limit the letter to around four main paragraphs
  • Use the same font size as your CV (minimum 10pt and maximum 12pt)
  • Break the letter down into sections and ensure you cover the 4 'Ws':
  1. What job are you applying for?
  2. What are you offering?
  3. Why do you want to work in this sector/organisation?
  4. When are you available for interview?

1. What job are you applying for?

State the job title (quoting any references numbers) that you are applying for and where you heard about it (website, newspaper, careers service etc.). For example: 'I am writing to apply for the position of graduate trainee in your marketing division, which I saw recently advertised on The Times website. (Reference 6784/05)'

2. What are you offering?

These paragraphs are an opportunity to highlight your main selling points. For example, key skills, qualifications and/or experience that you describe in more detail in your CV. Ensure that you are addressing the employer's key criteria – listed in the job description or person specification. Be positive about your skills and use active verbs and 'power words' to add impact. Download useful power words.

3. Why do you want to work in this sector and organisation?

Outline why you are interested in the job/sector and in the specific company. Relate your particular interests and skills to the needs of the role and the company in particular.  Provide evidence of your commitment and interest in the sector (eg a professional association membership, any relevant periodicals you read or any sector experience you possess).

4. When are you available for interview?

Finally in this paragraph mention your availability for interview and employment. If writing speculatively you may wish when you propose to follow up the approach. Remember to conclude positively and enthusiastically.

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CVs

Here are our tips for writing your CV.