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A covering letter is a great way for showing your motivation for applying to a particular job, especially if you are applying speculatively outside of a recruitment cycle. Your CV will demonstrate your education, qualifications and experience but your covering letter will explain why your skills and background make you a good candidate for the job.
Here are some tips for writing a standout covering letter:
Make it personal
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). If you are addressing it to a particular person use ‘Yours sincerely’ to sign off the letter and 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 – write about how you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you. How do you relate to the organisation’s values, ethos and ambitions?
Keep it clear and concise
Try and keep your covering letter to one page, with short, themed paragraphs.
Proofread your covering letter carefully and ensure it is presented well.
Here is an example of how to structure your 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 the job, demonstrating an understanding of what it is likely to involve.
- Say why you’re interested in working for this particular employer and demonstrate your research into the company.
- 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 to develop.
- Indicate availability for interview.
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