Every job application and CV must be sent with a covering letter. The covering letter will have different functions, depending on whether you are applying for a specific vacancy or if you are sending a speculative enquiry.
A speculative enquiry is where you send your CV to a company or organisation to ask if they have a suitable job for you, or if they will keep your CV on file until they do.
Whichever type of letter it is, it’s your chance to impress and to sell yourself. The person who reads it will probably get lots of other letters to read and you need to make sure that they remember yours, even if they only look at it for 30 seconds.
Begin with your address in the top right hand corner of the page; then put the date. Under that, on the left hand side, put the name, job title and address of the person you’re sending the letter to.
Try to send the letter to a named person if you can. For specific vacancies, there will usually be a named person in the advertisement or job details. For speculative enquiries, try to find out who is the best person to send your CV to, by phoning the organisation or checking on a website.
If there is a reference number for the vacancy, put it at the beginning of the letter on the first line after Dear Mr/Mrs…. You should say where you saw the vacancy advertised.
Your covering letter should sum up why you are applying for the job and why you believe that you are suited to it.
Try to draw out a few relevant points that you think make you the ideal person for the job, or that give excellent examples of where you have used the skills the employer is asking for. But don’t just copy what’s already in the CV – try to tailor it more closely to the actual vacancy.
In this case, the person who opens your letter won’t know why you are writing unless you tell them clearly exactly what you want. You will need to say:
Make sure you’ve found out something about what they do and try to link your skills and experience to their activities. Don’t just copy what’s already in your CV.
Finish by letting them know what you would like to happen next. For example, are you asking them to write back to you, to keep your CV on file or for a meeting with the human resources manager, for example?
If you have started your letter by addressing it to a named person and started with something like ‘Dear Mr Smith’ or Dear Mrs Jones’, then end the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you have addressed it to something like ‘Human Resources Manager’ and started ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, then end your letter with ‘Yours faithfully’.
Sign your letter and also type your name underneath the signature. If you’re writing your letter by hand, sign it and write your name in block capitals underneath.
Make sure you have given a contact telephone number and/or email address either in the letter or in the application/CV. If there are specific times when you are available, let them know.
Keep your letter to one side of A4 only and use good quality paper. Word process the letter if possible, and make sure that you spell check it. If you have to write it out by hand, make sure that your writing is clear and easy to read. Look up any words you’re not sure how to spell in the dictionary, and ask someone to read it through before you send it off.
Try not to fold your covering letter, CV or application form. Use a large, good quality A4-sized envelope instead. Make sure the envelope is addressed clearly and use first-class mail. Post your letter and application in plenty of time before the closing date if you are applying for a specific vacancy.
If you are sending your application form or CV by email, you still need to include all the items mentioned above. You can put your address and contact details at the bottom of the email. Make sure you check the email address for applications carefully and spell check your email before you send it.
Alternatively, you can prepare the letter in a separate document and attach it to your email along with your CV or application form.
Keep the language formal in your email.
Keep a copy of any covering letter you send, and be prepared to talk about anything you have written in the letter at an interview.