Structure and Content
Covering letters should follow a standard business layout.
The order in the covering letter is not strict, you may for example, prefer to talk about your interest in the company first and then go on to the skills and knowledge you can offer, however, try not to mix up different points i.e. bouncing between you and the company throughout the letter.
Covering letter format
- Your name and address on top left hand corner (UK)
- Employer name and address below on right hand side (UK)
- Salutation (Dear + name)
- Introductory paragraph
- Two-three paragraphs addressing your skills, knowledge and company research and contribution you can make
- Finishing off paragraph
Referring to your CV in the covering letter
It is always a good idea to refer to your CV early in the covering letter to ensure that you don’t start repeating the CV verbatim. Use the covering letter to provide complementary information to your CV. You may choose to refer to your CV in the introduction e.g. “I enclose my CV for your consideration” or you could refer to the CV when you talk about your skills etc. E.g.: “As my CV indicates, I can offer a number of relevant skills, such as XXX. In addition, …”.
Writing about your interest in the company
Many people concentrate solely on trying to ‘sell’ their experiences and skills in the covering letter to the employer. People often become quite good at identifying their key skills and relevant knowledge and therefore can do this part of the letter quite well!
However, how does the employer know that you are genuinely interested in working for them? How do they distinguish motivated candidates from others? If all the applicants have good skill examples, what makes some stand out for interview more than others?
Giving an indication in your letter that you have done some research into the employer, have a good understanding of their products, projects, customers, business outlook and relevance to your field help to really enhance your application. Perhaps aspects of their training programme really stand out for you. Show your knowledge in your letter and that you spent time researching them.
Remember, the application is not just about you, but the employer’s needs too! Look at the company’s website, go through articles about them in the relevant media.
Think about your role and the contribution you could make. Compare the company to their rivals, what are their strong points? When you send the covering letter, you should always feel that if the company was to call you the next day for an immediate interview, you would be fully prepared – and that means knowing lots of relevant information about the company, as well as your own skills profile!