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Writing Covering Letters

Most employers will expect you to include a cover letter with your Curriculum Vitae (C.V). It has been standard practice for a long time and gives a professional appearance. C.V.’s all follow the same format and are usually a summary of your qualifications and employment history. You can find out more about producing a CV here.

Your cover letter has a significant part to play in helping you to stand out in the application shortlisting process, it is likely the first thing the employer reads about you, it is the first impression of you and therefore just as important as your C.V.

A cover letter is used to draw together all the facts and comments in your CV and makes a case for the job being applied for. Unless a handwritten letter is requested, word processed is best – it looks more professional. The letter must be well presented and written or printed on plain white paper using black ink as this produces a clearer photocopy. Most importantly of all, the letter should be brief. A good letter can make you stand out among other candidates. It is your sales pitch to present yourself and target a specific employer.

Your Cover Letter should:

  • Introduce you
  • Confirm your contact details
  • Highlight relevant qualifications / experience / training
  • Register your interest in the specific vacancy
  • Demonstrate your written communication skill
  • Convince the employer to offer you an interview!

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Focus on the details

The details on a cover letter are important it shows the employer that you care about the vacancy you have applied for, that you really want the position and that you are the right person for the role. A salutation is how you start and end a formal letter. If you do not have the employer’s name then you will need to begin your letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and then end your letter with ‘Yours faithfully’. If you do have the employer’s name then you will begin your letter with one of the following: ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms’ (Surname). You then need to end your letter with ‘Yours sincerely’.

Content

The key with covering letters is to keep them brief, get across the important points and let a positive, enthusiastic personality shine through. If you've completed a long 'personal details' section on an application form, the letter should be short to avoid repetition. If you're sending a C.V., your letter needs to be a little more detailed, in order to put a personal slant on the information you've provided.

The tone of your letter should be targeted to the tone of the advertisement and job description. If that seems relatively informal, follow their lead, but be careful to avoid using language you wouldn't normally use; it's all about the real you. Focus on the key points in the job advertisement and highlight how you meet those requirements. If you do not have a formal job advertisement, complete some research, learn about the skills you will need and focus on how you meet those skills or highlight your employability skills.

As a rough guide, take a look at the following tips:

  • In the first paragraph, get across what vacancy you're applying for, and where and when it was advertised.
  • In the second paragraph, let them know how your abilities, skills and experience link to the needs of the company and why you want to work for them.
  • In the third paragraph, let them know when you are available and conclude with a confident: 'I look forward to hearing from you'.

Check, check and recheck

Ask a family member, friend or teacher to have a check over the final copy of the Cover Letter before you send it to an employer.

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Finding Employment Cover Letters