Top Tips For A Tip-Top Covering Letter!

Far from a formality, your covering letter is a fantastic chance to flesh out the details on your CV and highlight your suitability for the role. Here are 5 top tips to ensure your covering letter is tip-top:

1. Keep it short and sweet

More than a page is acknowledged as just too long. Employers spend approximately a minute reading each job application (this is the application in total- not just your covering letter!). If you have written a short novel people will (understandably) be less inclined to read it.

2. Tailor it!

A generic cover letter won’t get you anywhere. The cover letter is your only real chance to emphasize to employers your enthusiasm for this job at this specific company. It also shows your potential employer that you are prepared to go the extra mile.

It's essential to do your research - into both the company and the role.

a)      The company:  this could be relevant facts or figures about the company, or recent achievements or awards they have. For example, "'In light of your recent Academy award, it seems like a really exciting time to join your company."

b)      The role: read the job specification thoroughly and say which parts appeal to you. Then research the role on the website. Is there any more information you can use to show the employer you have read anything else apart from the specification? Are there any quotes or videos from their current grads?

N.B. Don’t take their words exactly (as there is a very good chance the person you are writing to will recognise them) but you can use points that they make. E.g. 'The fact that your grad scheme provides the opportunity to specialise early on is something that really appeals to me. '

3. Provide evidence of your qualities

Everything you say, you need to back up with evidence Eg. "I am a fantastic leader."  Says who?!

You need to prove it! Continuing with the example of leadership, this can be done in 3 stages:

a)      State your leadership experience:

e.g. In my final year at University I was president of the Swimming society

b)      How did you show leadership?

e.g. During this time I chaired weekly meetings, increased society membership (at this point you’ve shown leadership qualities of a communication and persuasion )

c)       Numbers; this gives your claim more credibility

e.g. I increased society membership from 30 to 65

4. Follow a clear structure

A clear structure is key. The aim of the game is to make the information in your covering letter as easy to glean as possible. Simple as it sounds, separating the different points you wish to make into paragraphs is a great way to do this.

But first, how should you start your letter? It’s best to stick with convention. Unfortunately, a chatty ‘hello’ or ‘hi there’ just won’t cut the mustard. So:

Always address it personally if you can. This means Dear Mr. Jones or Dear. Mrs/Miss Jones. If you don’t know a ladies marital status, to avoid the risk annoying someone from the get-go, it’s always best to play it safe with a Ms.. If you don’t know the person’s name at all Dear Sir/Madam is perfectly fine. Then:

Paragraph 1 - Introduction: a positive, formal introduction stating: the job you are applying for, how you heard about the opportunity and listing the documents you have enclosed (usually just your CV)

Paragraph 2 - Why you?: Highlight your key skills, and most importantly, how they relate to the competencies required in the job. For every single competency in the job spec think about how you fit it and whack it in your covering letter. Remember, to evidence everything you say (see point 3)

Paragraph 3 - Why them?: outline why you are interested in both the role and the organisation (as outlined in Point 2)

Paragraph 4: Thank you: Always thank the employer for taking the time to read your covering letter

Sign off with Yours Sincerely (if you know the person’s name) or Yours Faithfully (If you don’t know the person’s name).

Feel free to download our free covering letter template here.

5. And finally, when in doubt, listen to George Orwell!

The ‘nineteen-eighty-four’ author’s ‘Rules for Writing’ are remarkably handy when proof-reading and editing your covering letter:

​• Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
​• Never use a long word where a short one will do.
​• If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
​• Never use the passive where you can use the active.
​• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

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Application Forms: A Question Of Competency


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