How to write a good covering letter

Even with so much of the recruitment process done online, a covering letter can really aid your application.

So don't underestimate the importance of a good covering letter. A well-written one will often get your CV to the top of the pile while a generic one will usually result in you being passed over. The good news is that it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to write a great covering letter.

The purpose of your covering letter

Too often candidates think that a covering letter is their chance to shout about how great they are and what they have achieved. That is a mistake.

A covering letter has one simple purpose: to show your suitability for the role. There are two elements to this

  • highlighting how your skills, experience and aspirations match the role; and
  • pointing the reader towards the most relevant sections of your CV.

In other words, every sentence of the covering letter should refer directly to the role and highlight why you are a good fit. If your greatest achievement isn’t relevant then leave it out.

Before you write your covering letter

Before you even start to draft your covering letter go through the job description line by line highlighting the skills, qualifications and experience that the role focuses on. Next, go through your CV and identify the most relevant content.

Writing the covering letter

The covering letter should be as short as it can be but as long as it needs to be – typically 200 to 400 words.

In the first paragraph state which role you are applying for and where you saw the role advertised before referring readers to your CV.

In the second paragraph explain how your qualifications, skills and experience match each of those listed on the job description.

In the third paragraph highlight the contribution you will make in this role. The easiest way to do this is to focus on the impact you’ve made in previous roles.

Conclude by reaffirming your interest in the role and signing off “Yours sincerely,” if you have the hiring managers name and “Yours faithfully,” if you don’t.

Before you send the covering letter

Before you send the letter, carry out the following checks to make sure

  • the letter is addressed to the right person;
  • you refer to the right role;
  • you have attached the right version of your CV; and
  • your contact details are somewhere on the letter.

Good luck!

And remember to check out the Clarity Appointments website for the latest vacancies in Herts, Beds and Cambs.

Clare Wight is Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals and a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: clare.wight@clarityteam.co.uk


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