Helping you into work

Tips for your cover letter

The employer may receive a number of applications for each job advertised. Your cover letter is your opening into the recruiting process and is your first introduction to the employer. Always send a cover letter with a CV as the employer may decide in just a few seconds if it is worth their time looking at your CV. They will use your cover letter to quickly check whether you meet the main requirements of the job description and only move onto your CV for more details if they think you do.

When creating your cover letter, you will also confirm to yourself that the post is right for you. You will be gaining a better understanding of the role and the employers’ requirements to help you target your CV to the specific role. See Tips for your CV PDF.

Preparing the letter

Before you start to write the cover letter, you need to study and understand the job description for the vacancy you are interested in. You should be doing this anyway to make sure of the following points.

Do you really want to do this job?

Could you do this job?

Is it worth spending a lot of time creating a letter and specific CV when you have limited relevant experience? How much do you want this job? Only you can decide.

If you answer 'yes' to these points, then identify the employer's most important points in the job description.

What does the job involve?

What are the keys skills, experience and qualifications?

Meeting the job requirements

Knowing what the employer requires, and how you can prove that you offer what they want. Consider your past experience in and outside of work. Skills and experience are all transferrable from life outside of work or from previous different roles. If your work experience is limited, consider what you may have done at school, university, volunteering, private or family life.

For each of the main skills, experience and qualifications, note down how you match them.

Tips when writing a cover letter

Write a cover letter for each job you apply for. Even if the job description is very similar, there are likely to be some subtle differences - particularly in the previous experience expected. Tailor your letter to each role.

Mention the job title and the main characteristics they are looking for. The person reading the letter is likely to be very busy, and needs to be politely reminded of the role.

Having reminded them of what they are looking for, let them know that you are a good candidate for the role by explaining how you meet the main characteristics of the job description.

Providing examples matching your experience to the job description will demonstrate to them why you are the best choice.

Don’t over complicate the letter or make it lengthy. Keep it brief, direct and polite.

Cover letter layout

The covering letter may be a formal letter following a professional format or a less formal email. A formal letter should always follow the rules of a letter and contain the address or the recipient and the sender. Emails are less formal but make sure your signature contains your name, address and contact details. See letter format PDF.

General tips

  • use paragraphs to make the letter readable
  • use bullet points to highlight specific points
  • make it clear you have read the job description and know what the job requirements are
  • keep it polite and formal - never be apologetic
  • when closing the letter or email, thank them for their time and point them towards your CV
  • sign off on a positive note
  • read it through and do not trust the software spell checker. Maybe ask someone else to read it

Specific letter tips

  • make sure it is dated
  • above the Dear .. enter Re: Application for post of …… to make if very clear what the letter is about
  • as it is a formal letter, your address will be at the top but make sure the letter also contains other contact information such as phone and email, perhaps under your signature at the bottom
  • enclose a copy of your specific CV
  • make sure you pay enough postage

Specific email tips

  • the email subject should include the job title and mention that it is an application
  • your signature should include your postal address and a contact phone number
  • attach your specific CV
  • read it through again before you press send
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