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Cover Letter Information

What is a cover letter? Sent and read in conjunction with your CV, a cover letter is a one-page document that highlights relevant skills and achievements. It gives the reader an opportunity to see the ‘person’ behind CV. Cover Emails are similar but you need to be aware of a couple of nuances! Click here for more information!

What is the purpose of a cover letter? Highlight the skills and achievements which are especially relevant to that particular employer. A brief summary of your experiences to date, aligned to the competencies that are required by the employer (read the job spec). Chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge of the organisation to which you are applying and your motivation for working there. Chance for you to exhibit your insight and knowledge of the organisation to which you are applying and your inspiration for working there. Opportunity for the employer to see your written communication skills in action!

What needs to be included in a cover letter?  Employers expect you to show that you match the position. The secret of writing a good cover letter lies in using your qualifications and experience to show that you are the best person for the position. Focus on your relevant achievements: academic, extra-curricular, work experience and other interesting aspects of your life  Focus on the employer, why you are applying for the job, including some interesting and relevant facts about that organisation. The way you write and present yourself shows them that you are capable of thinking clearly and you are a motivated, proactive learner. Write clearly and logically.

How long should the cover letter be? 400 words are about right and certainly not more than one page of A4 paper.

What type of language should I use? Sharp concise sentences that make for targeted paragraphs. High-quality writing and proofing skills.  Have a friend proofread your letters Avoid overuse of “I” and pay special attention and try to have a natural flow between paragraphs. Here are some useful words/phrases.

What is the correct layout of a cover letter?  In general, cover letters are one side of typed A4 and are set out like a formal business letter. The letter should be about three to four paragraphs long with each separated by a single line. Do not indent the paragraphs as this is considered old-fashioned. Bullet points can be effective when highlighting specific skills or competencies that match the employers' requirements. See here for some examples.

  • Opening Paragraph: introduce yourself briefly and, if appropriate, tell them which job you are applying for and where you saw the advert. Inform the employer at this point of the degree/course title you are studying/have studied; it’s relevance to the role applied for, and possibly your classification if graduated.
  • Second Paragraph: Why the job? - Sell yourself by showing what you have to offer that makes you the ideal candidate for the role. address the key requirements of the role by highlighting what relevant skills, qualities, qualifications and work experience you have to offer the organisation.
  • Third Paragraph: Why the employer? - Why are you interested in them? Don’t repeat website content but do show you have researched the company and know about them.
  • Closing Paragraph: The ending - You can include the standard “look forward to hearing from you” and “available for interview at your convenience” but don’t forget to sign the letter as well. You might briefly summarize your qualifications and interest in the position unless you’ve done so above.

For more information on layout click here

How should I address my letter? Standard Business Letter (see example).

How do I know who to write to? Reply to the name used in the job spec. If you are not able to find a named individual, you can use “Dear Sir/Madam”. The correct greeting in a business letter is always formal. It normally begins with “Dear” and usually includes the person’s last name and title, i.e., Professor, Dr, Mr, Ms etc. If addressing a female, does the job adverts specify whether they are Mrs, Miss, or Ms? If it doesn’t say then it is best to use Ms.

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