What is a covering letter, and do I actually need one?
A covering letter is a supporting document you can submit along with your CV when applying for jobs. It is an opportunity to expand on your CV and make a clear case for your suitability for a given role.
Not all employers will request a covering letter, but it is good practice to include one with each application you submit. The reason? Recruiters genuinely take notice of covering letters!
The ground rules for a good covering letter
- Keep it brief – 1 side of A4 (4 or 5 paragraphs) will be enough to cover the key points.
- Don’t copy and paste – While it’s tempting to re-use the same covering letter for multiple applications, try to freshen it up each time. Of course, you can re-use certain sections or phrases, but you should try and cater each covering letter to the specific position and company you’re approaching.
- Do your research – A covering letter is your opportunity to show how you suit a specific role at a particular company, so unique details matter. Make sure you understand the role you’re applying for and get a feel for your (hopefully) new employer.
How should I start my covering letter?
As with your CV, you’ll want to include your name and contact information at the top of your covering letter.
Next, add the name of the hiring manager along with their job title, the name of the company you’re applying to, and the date. Addressing the hiring manager directly can help make your covering letter more engaging.
You can often find the name of the hiring manager on the application form or in the job advert. If their name isn’t listed, just use “[role you’re applying for] hiring manager” as an alternative.
What should I say in the first paragraph?
The first paragraph of your covering letter should get across why you’re getting in touch. Mention the company, the job title and why you’d like to apply. Try to show how your experience and interests align with the role and/or company.
It can also be a good idea to mention how you heard about the company/position in your opening paragraph.
“Dear Samantha, I’d like to submit my application for the position of Editor at A La Mode. Please find attached my CV for your consideration. I was made aware of your vacancy through Thrive Burnley and immediately knew I had to apply.”
What should I say in the second paragraph?
The second paragraph is your chance to highlight your previous experience and qualifications and how they would benefit your new employer. Remember, they’ve got your CV for reference, so you don’t need to repeat yourself. Pick key points from your CV and go into a little more detail. Check the job description and address some of the key skills and requirements mentioned.
“With 5+ years of editing and copywriting experience, I feel I have the knowledge and skills necessary to make a positive impact at A La Mode. After studying English language extensively at degree level, I have a keen eye for grammar and accuracy. Yes, I’m that annoying friend that corrects people’s errors in the group chat.”
What should I say in the third paragraph?
In this section, go into more detail about your key achievements and how they would benefit the company. Include stats if you have them to underline your value.
“In my current role as deputy editor at Home Comforts, I’ve overseen a dramatic rise in our audience with site traffic increasing year on year during my tenure. Following this growth, I was tasked with expanding our team of writing staff and now oversee six full-time copywriters. I would hope to bring this experience to A La Mode and help your blog expand even further.”
What should I say in the fourth paragraph?
Your fourth paragraph is a chance to recap your suitability for both the role and the company. Sum things up for the recruiter and tell them again, why you want the role and why you’re the right person for the job. Also, don’t be shy about asking for an interview directly.
“I’m confident that with my experience and eye for detail, I can take A La Mode forward and continue to develop their already stellar reputation. I would appreciate the chance to discuss this opportunity with you further and share my passion and ambitions in more detail.”
How should I sign off?
To close the covering letter, simply add a formal sign off.
“Yours sincerely (or faithfully), [Your Name]”
If you’re happy you’ve included everything, go through and give your covering letter a final proofread. At this stage, it can also be helpful to get a second pair of eyes to sense check your covering letter.
Once you have the seal of approval, submit your covering letter along with your CV.