Tips and recommendations

Whilst it may seem like a 30-second formality, your covering letter can be just as important as your resumé and, arguably, often more important.  The reason for this is that it is often the best insight into you as a person that a recruiter will get, given that resumé content tends very much to revolve around concise statements of facts.

The tips below may seem unnecessary, but think of it this way: If each of these adds 2% to how positively a recruiter views you based on first impressions, those extra few percentage points may tip the balance in your favour when compared with a similar candidate who supplies a poorly-written covering letter.

Use the links below to navigate to the particular items you want suggestions on, or go to the bottom of the page to download this page as a pdf for reference later.

Tip 1
Format
Tip 2
Position
Tip 3
Progress
Tip 4
Size
Tip 5
Currently
Tip 6
Relevant
Tip 7
Closing
Tip 8
Signature
Tip 9
Checks
Tip 1:
Use a business letter format, even if applying online

This means writing the covering letter and attaching it, in the same way you would attach your CV.  Add your name and address at top right, and include the date underneath.

Tip 2:
state the position you’re applying for

Many companies hire for multiple positions at the same time.  Make it easy for a recruiter to know which position you’re putting yourself forward for by stating the position name, and any reference number provided.

Tip 3:
present the position advertised as a natural next step for you

By doing this, you demonstrate that you are a good candidate and have a background appropriate to the tasks, and that it is a step up from where you are currently.

Tip 4:
No more than a single page

Your covering letter is an introduction and an at-a-glance sample of your suitability, not an application in itself.  Keep it short and easy to read.

Tip 5:
Lead with what you’re doing now, or most recently

Give an immediate introduction to what you’re doing now, so that the recruiter can see that you are already in a relevant position, using skills that are useful for the position they are advertising.

Tip 6:
experience is only relevant to the position you’re applying for

If the ad is for a graphic designer, for instance, focus on the design tasks and software used to produce graphic design work.  Similarly, if there is a difference between your last job and the one you’re applying for, mention only the skills overlaps between them.

Tip 7:
Close positively and memorably

“I would be delighted to have the opportunity to interview” reads better than “I am available at your convenience” and it suggests enthusiasm for both the role and in general.

Tip 8:
Get the signature section right
  • If the cover letter is addressed to a named person (“Dear Ms Parker”) you should end the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’.
  • If your cover letter is addressed to an unknown person, or generic title (“Dear Sir/Madam”) you should end it with ‘Yours faithfully’.
Tip 9:
Use spellcheck

You may be a great writer, but typos happen to everyone.

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