Writing compelling covering letters

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What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document sent alongside your CV when applying for jobs. It acts as a personal introduction and helps to sell your application to perspective employers. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain to an employer why you’re the best candidate for the job. You can do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience. A cover letter should therefore always be tailored to the role you are applying for.

Cover letters should complement your CV and not duplicate it. A cover letter should be three to five short paragraphs and not exceed one A4 page.

Applications should always include a cover letter unless the job advert instructs you differently.

How to write a cover letter?

Keep your cover letter concise, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job at hand.

  • First paragraph – The opening statement should set out why you’re writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you’re applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
  • Second paragraph – Explain why you’re suitable for the job and what attracted you to this type of work. Here you should also explain why you’re interested in working for the company.
  • Third paragraph – Highlight relevant experience and demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description. Explain how these could benefit the company.
  • Last paragraph – Use the closing paragraph to reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for a personal interview.

Always try and address your cover letter directly to the person who will be reading it. Bear in mind that you’re more likely to receive a reply if you send it to the right person.

Advertised positions usually include a contact name, but if not, it is worth taking the time to find out who the letter should be addressed to. You can do this by searching the company’s website for details of the hiring manager or alternatively you could call the organisation to ask who you should address your letter to. LinkedIn can also be very useful here.

How you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you include a named contact, sign off ‘yours sincerely’. If you use a general greeting, finish with ‘yours faithfully’.

Top tips for the perfect cover letter

Competition for roles in aviation is fierce. You need to ensure that your cover letter makes a lasting impression for the right reasons.

Here are some top tips to increase your chances of success:

  1. Tailor the letter to the organisation and the role – You should rewrite your cover letter every time you apply for a position in order to target the company. Sending out a generic letter for all applications rarely yields positive results.
  2. Proofread – Print off your cover letter and double-check for spelling and grammar errors before passing it to a family member or friend to look over.
  3. Format – Make sure the document is as uncluttered as possible, use the same font and size as you use in your CV.
  4. Include specific examples – Back up the claims in your cover letter with real evidence and examples that demonstrate how and when you’ve used your skills and experience.
  5. Identify your USPs – They’re your unique selling points. Be positive about what you have to offer and clearly outline how your skills and experience meet those requested in the job description. Demonstrate why you’re the right candidate for the role in question.
  6. Go beyond your CV: what approach did you take to tackling one of the responsibilities you’ve mentioned on your CV? What about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done?

If you’re a current student or recent graduate you can make an appointment with your university’s careers and employability service to access further help when writing your cover letter.

Sending your application

Electronically

If you are sending your application by email, including the entire content of the letter in the message box of your e-mail may result in a very long e-mail which could be off-putting to the recipient! Try writing a shorter, summarised message for the e-mail explaining your reasons for contacting them, and attaching your covering letter and CV to the message (with reference to this in the e-mail). You could either attach the covering letter and CV as one document, or as two separate attachments, ensure that it is clear in your message. Don’t forget to attach!

By post

If you send your application by post, using good quality paper can make a real difference to the impact of your application. Don’t forget to sign your letter and ensure you send it off well in time of the closing date for applications, or else your hard work could go to waste!

And: CHECK FOR SPELLING, GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION MISTAKES. If you are not sure, ask a friend, tutor or careers advisor to proof read.

Speculative covering letters

You may want to write to companies who do not have vacancies currently advertised in the hope there may be something suitable in the near future. This is called a ‘speculative’ application and some areas of the letter may change e.g.:

Introduction

Rather than refer to a specific position, you should indicate a type of position you are hoping might be available. If you have met the correspondent in the past, or have been recommended to write to them by a contact, you can mention this here.

Your skills and knowledge

Show how they relate to your suggested role(s) in relation to the kind of needs you think this company would have (think about similar companies and the kinds of skill requirements you may have seen in relevant job ads etc.)

Why this company?

This is even more important to speculative letters. Perhaps you can impress them by showing you have relevant knowledge and understanding of their goods or services, and that you can offer a particularly relevant area of knowledge.

Finishing off

Perhaps it may be worth mentioning that you will initiate contact with the company in a couple of weeks or so for advice on opportunities, but you must then follow it up!

More help with job applications

For more help with making applications, why not visit our pages on Soft Skills, CVs, Online Application Forms and Interviews.

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