2- How to Write a Covering Letter

2- How to Write a Covering Letter

How to Write a Covering Letter

Provided by: Maamoun Salam, Bilal Khawam
Last updated: 18/7/2007
Source: Internet Search

What is a covering letter

Tell the employer
How should a covering letter be laid out?
Format and Main Body:

Paragraph 1 – Why you are writing
Step 1 - Introduce yourself
Step 2 - Explain why you are making this application
Paragraph 2 – What you can offer them
Step 3 – You need to do a bit of self selling
Paragraph 3 – Summary and next step
Sept 4- Ending the letter

Disclosing personal information
Tips to remember
Applying by email
One final point

Idea What is a Covering Letters?

- Every time that you send out your CV you will need to send out a cover letter with it, whether you are sending your CV in response to an advert or direct to an employer or recruiter. This cover letter needs to tell the person you are sending it to why they should read your CV.

- A covering letter needs to say a lot more than just: 'Here is my CV!' which is all some people seem to think a covering letter should say. It needs to tell the person why you are writing to him and outline why you are the ideal candidate for the job. You need to pick out the highlights from your CV that are relevant to this specific application.

- You will probably spend much effort and time on producing your very best CV – maybe to such an extent you will be really be amazed at what you have to offer and how well you have presented it in your CV.

- But… a poor Covering Letter… or, worse still, none at all can mean that the reader simply doesn’t even read your CV! All good organizations will be staffed with very good and therefore busy people. They will often need to get a pile of applications down from say 50 to 5 to interview for 1 vacancy in a very short time. This means that you only get one chance at making an impression. Initially that may be just about 60 seconds. This sounds brutal – particularly after you’ve spent weeks on your application – but it is reality. So don’t throw all your hard work away by attaching a poor covering letter.

Idea Content

Arrow Tell the employer:

• who you are.
• what you are applying for and where you saw it advertised if applicable.
• why you want the job or opportunity and why you are attracted to the organization.
• how you feel that your qualifications and experience make you a suitable candidate.
• what you want them to do for you, e.g. ask about the possibility of arranging an interview or a visit (this will depend on your circumstances and whether you are making a speculative application or responding to an advertised vacancy).
• What you hope will happen next, e.g. a polite, positive closing statement, saying you will telephone to follow up your letter or that you look forward to hearing from them.
• By the end of the letter the employer should be really impressed by what you have to offer and be encouraged to find out more from your CV or application form.

Arrow How should a covering letter be laid out?

Your letter should usually adhere to the following layout:

Your contact details
- This should include your name, address, telephone number and email address if you have one.
- Remember make it easy for the employer to contact you
- Your address and contact details usually on the right side at the top.

Employer/agency details
- This should include whom the letter is going to, company name and full address.
- If you know the name of the person e.g. if it is mentioned in the advertisement then
use it.
- If no particular name was mentioned use a department title e.g. Personnel manager
or Managing director.
- The employer's name and address usually on the left side.

- You should use long date format in full e.g. 27th April 2006 and not 27/4/06

Salutation & Opening
- If you know the name use it e.g. Dear Mr Smith. If you don’t know, use Dear Sir/Madam.
- It is preferable to use a name.
- The company’s web site is often a good place to search for the appropriate
- A reference number for the job (if you know it) and/or the job title.

Letter title
- Centre and bold the text. This will enable the addressee to know immediately that this is an application.

The main body of the letter,
- Justified to the left hand margin, with a line between paragraphs:
Paragraph 1 – Why you are writing
Paragraph 2 – What you can offer them
Paragraph 3 – Summary and next step
(See below)

- Use “Yours sincerely” if you are sending the letter to a named person, otherwise use “Yours faithfully”.
- Add a few blank lines and finish with your name.
- The space between is used for your signature once printed.

Arrow Format and Main Body

The letter itself needs to cover 4 main areas. Remember, it isn’t meant to duplicate the CV but should be treated as a “Trailer” for the “Main Event”.

Paragraph 1 – Why you are writing
- You want to try & get the interest of the Employer.
- You should start the letter with the reason for writing and indicate the position that you are applying for along with how you heard of the vacancy.
- This is also a good place to tell then why you are interested in the position and convey a genuine interest in the company.
- The company website will be a good source of background information.

Step 1 - Introduce yourself
Some examples:
• “I have just graduated from…”
• Try to avoid the “My name is …” approach – it isn’t particularly elegant and makes you sound like Eminem.
• If you are writing this letter having spoken to someone on the telephone or at a fair, say so in your letter. This could even be your opening sentence e.g. “Following on from my recent conversation with Joe Bloggs, I am pleased to enclose a copy of my CV as requested”.

Step 2 - Explain why you are making this application
- This will need to cover both the company and the job/function for which you are applying. - Having researched the company and job (you have, haven’t you?) explain why you want this job.
- Make it a personal statement about you and why you want them to say “yes” to this application. Maybe start with an “I” statement.

Some examples: :
• “I’ve always wanted to be a Chartered Account and the reputation of your company and its training is well known”
• “I met one of your recruitment team at your company’s presentation and the company and its approach to work is just what I’m looking for”
• “I’m looking for a career switch into Advertising and my research shows you are one of the best”
• “I’m looking to continue to my career as a research chemist and working for XYZ Plc, with its tremendous investment program in my field of interest, is to me a natural choice”

- Whether you start by talking about your interest in the organization or in the job depends on what attracted you to apply in the first place. Structure your letter according to what “did it” for you.

- As well as interest, you need to demonstrate an understanding of the job you are applying for – and the company too. Show you have done your research properly. Don’t make statements that state the blindingly obvious e.g. “you are a large multinational firm with 30 offices worldwide”. Instead, say WHY that matters to you, and what it is about them that makes you want to work for them.

- Remember the aim is to make your letter stand out from the rest. Provide a personal statement with an element of passion and drive and this should encourage the reader to want to read on with a positive frame of mind. However, don’t make it artificial – it has to be real. It should also sound like you have written it – don’t feel you have to pack it with long words and complicated rhetoric if that is not your personal style. Express yourself simply and clearly.

Paragraph 2 – What you can offer them
- Here you describe briefly why you think you should be considered for the role.
- You should summaries relevant qualifications for the position along with your experience and skills.
- Also give a brief example of one or two jobs you have worked in that relate to the position.
- Try to make sure that it is not just a list of what is in your CV but is individualized to the job application.

Step 3 – You need to do a bit of self selling

Some examples: :
• "I believe my research project demonstrates my special technical knowledge in the filed as well as managing a team against very difficult timescale and technical difficulties"


• "My work as Shift supervisor at Mac Burgers clearly shows I can lead and motivate a team and achieve results. I've enjoyed this work and really feel I can now move on and make a difference and build a career in your company "

Paragraph 3 – Summary and next step
Sept 4- Ending the letter
- Refer to your enclosed CV and also ask for the interview.
- Conclude the letter with a friendly "I look forward to hearing from you…"
Or, you may at this point suggest that you will be making a follow up call.
- It is also important that you thank the reader for their time and consideration and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them.

And now consider these points on style

• Don’t' be afraid to put in anything you feel will make you stand out providing it is relevant of course.
• Be positive and upbeat. Try to avoid negative information about yourself e.g. phrases like "Although I have no experience in this sector..."! Instead refer to the skills you do have that are transferable and relevant to this sector! As with your CV, you need to use language in a positive way and phrase things in the active tense rather than passively. Action verbs work just effectively in a cover letter as they do in a CV
• A word of caution- humor is often a poor traveler and it is often best avoided in covering letters. Remember, you want to be taken seriously and not as potential officer joker.

Idea Disclosing Personal Information

• Although the general rule is to avoid referring to “negative” information in your covering letter, there may be situations when it is appropriate to do so.
• For example, if you are applying to an employer who is strict about A-level results but you have a good reason for why your marks were low (e.g. serious illness during your exams), you may want to mention this in your covering letter.
• There might also be situations where you may want to mention a disability but again, this could be raised at a later date if applicable e.g. if you need wheelchair access to attend an interview. The Careers Service has a specialist adviser for students with disabilities if you want to discuss this with someone.
• The secret is to present this information in a positive light, perhaps as evidence to demonstrate your particular drive, resilience and so on.
• Remember the company is not interested in your life story. What they need to see is whether or not you have what they need. Do not dwell on it and remember to focus on all the positive things you have going for you!

Idea Tips to remember

• Covering letters are not easy to write. Try brainstorming some ideas first before trying to construct full paragraphs.
• Where possible, write to a named individual.
• Make the letter as personal as possible…
“Dear Sir/Madam” is OK – finished with “Yours faithfully”
“Dear Mr. Smith or Ms Jones is better – finished with “Yours sincerely”
“Dear Caroline” might be OK if you have met someone before or spoken with them on the phone and are sure that this familiarity is appropriate. Finish with “Yours sincerely” or “Yours truly”. If in doubt, stick to Dear Ms Jones.
• It is worth spending some time experimenting with different versions before adopting a style that suits both you and the organization you are writing to.
• In terms of the physical appearance of your letter, print it on the same paper as your CV. Use nice quality paper for both and sign your letter by hand. Use the same font face as for your CV so they look consistent as a “package”.
• Try to keep your letter to one side of A4 word processed text, printed on good quality plain paper, ensuring that the layout looks balanced.
• Use a legible font (e.g. Arial, Times) with a minimum size of 11 point.
• Sell yourself and emphasis your enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the opportunity or profession.
• Aim for a maximum of three paragraphs. Remember simple is best.
• Use upbeat and positive language and avoid exaggerated statements.
• Ensure there are no spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes
• Always use black ink.
• Express yourself with confidence.
• Your CV or Resume cover letter should be tailored specifically for each application.
• Be concise and to the point. Try to avoid repeating what's in your CV.

Idea Applying by Email

- If you intend to send your CV by email then in the body of the email is where you need to reproduce your cover letter.
- Email can be an informal method of communication – do not make the mistake of making your covering email informal.
- The content should be the same as if you had sent it on paper.
- Remember that not all email systems are the same - you may be able to format the email message at your end but it may not come out looking quite the same when it arrives at the other!

Idea One final point

- Each cover letter needs to be individually written for that particular company. Of course, your own details, degree results as well as your skills, experiences and attributes are the same, but you do need to tailor your cover letter to each particular company and/or job, as well as give the right emphasis to those particular skills etc the company specifically mentions.
- Trying to produce a “typical cover letter” into which you simply paste in the changes in address runs the risk of making your letter too bland and impersonal. It will not make you stand out.
- If you’ve followed all this advice then the reader ought to be eagerly anticipating your CV. If not… all that effort… and never even read!

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