Step by Step guide to Jobseeking
Step Three - How to write the perfect covering letter
Covering letters are an accepted part of the application process, with most employers relying on these to quickly sift out unsuitable applicants.
Your covering letter is a great opportunity for you to highlight that you have the skills and experience for a role, whilst ensuring that the recruiter in question gives your CV the due attention.
The aim if a covering letter
Covering letters are used by employers to view a quick summary of an applicant's skills and experience, and will sometimes be used to pre-screen applicants before viewing CVs. Your covering letter needs to ensure that you promote the skills you have which are appropriate for the role you are applying for. It also needs to provide a good reflection of the experience and qualifications noted down on your CV. Your covering letter is a marketing document to sell your relevant skills and experience for a role, to ensure your CV receives a proper viewing, and to help get you through to the interview stage.
What to include in a covering letter
Covering letters, like CVs, will vary in content depending on the role you're applying for and your own skills and experience. However, employers will generally expect to see the following information, contact details, details of the job you're applying for and where you saw this advertised, a brief summary of your recent experience and what you have gained from this, and why your skills and experience are suitable for the role.
Top covering letter tips
To make your covering letter as effective as possible, we would recommend the following guidelines:
Address the letter to the right person -
It may sound obvious, but when writing a covering letter you should always try to address the letter to the person handling job applications. If you're unsure of the right contact, don't be afraid to call the company to ask for a name. After all, there's no harm in showing initiative.
Keep it brief -
Covering letters should be a summary of your CV, matching your skills and experience to the requirements of the role. As such, these should be kept as short and concise as possible, and certainly should not exceed one page of A4.
Refer to your CV. The covering letter should highlight the key points of your CV that will be of interest to the recruiter.
Match yourself to the job -
Your covering letter should highlight the skills and experience on your CV that match the job requirements. Remember, employers use covering letters as a means of pre-screening applications, so you need to show that you meet their requirements.
Do your homework -
Covering letters provide a great opportunity to show that you have thought properly about the job you're applying for and have done some research. When explaining why you're interested in the job role, try to show some knowledge of the company you're applying to.
Explain gaps in work history -
As your covering letter is a marketing document, you should highlight what you've gained from recent work history. Your covering letter provides an ideal opportunity to explain what you were doing during the gaps, and sell any skills you might have picked up on the way"
Common covering letter problems
As they need to be written from scratch each time you apply, covering letters can be tricky to get right. Below are some common covering letter problems you may face:
The recruiter hasn't asked for a covering letter -
On many occasions, recruiters will not specify that a covering letter is required. This is often the case when applying to jobs on job sites. However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't include one. Remember, a covering letter is an opportunity to sell yourself and improve your chances of getting an interview, so you should always make the effort to write a tailored letter for each application.
I don't know who is handling applications -
In general, you should try to find out a named contact handling applications and address your covering letter to them. This ensures that your letter is more personal and so is more likely to receive a proper viewing. However, if it really isn't possible to find a named contact, you can simply address your letter as ‘Dear Sir/Madam'.
I'm applying prospectively, so can't match myself to job requirements -
Effective covering letters generally match your skills and experience to the requirements of a specific job you're applying for. However, if you're applying prospectively you won't have a detailed job spec to match yourself to. So, when making prospective applications, be sure to give a full description of the sort of role you're looking for, with details of the skills you have that enable you to carry out this role. Covering letters for prospective applications are also an excellent opportunity for you to show your knowledge of the company, by detailing why you are looking to work there.
I'm not fully qualified for the role -
If you don't have all of the experience or qualifications necessary for a specific role, your covering letter is a great place to confront this. When outlining your relevant skills for a role, you should be able to highlight areas where you can make up for a lack of qualifications/experience, and why you still believe you would be able to meet the job requirements.