16 April 2014
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Covering letter

It is advisable to attach a covering letter to any CV that you submit to a employer. A well written cover letter can be a useful document that allows you to immediately display your key strengths to the recruiter.

On this page you will get tips on what to put in a cover letter and also just as importantly what not to put in it. You will receive guidance on what typeface and fonts to use, how long your letter should be etc. We also have links to covering letter examples that can help you with speculative job hunting when approaching recruitment agencies or replying to job adverts.

A covering letter is there to help you win a interview, studies have shown that almost 50% of HR managers value it as a important addition to a CV. Therefore its strongly recommended that you spend time on it to maximize its effect.

Remember though that a badly written covering letter can result in the recruiter not even bothering to read your CV.

A covering letter can set the tone for your job application and also give you a opportunity to:-

  • Give your reasons and your motivation for applying.
  • Show your knowledge of the company you are applying to.
  • Demonstrate your experience and knowledge of your industry.
  • Write points that do not fit in the CV.
  • Quickly highlight and re-emphasize you skills & experiences that relate to the job.

Writing a covering letter
Use the notes below to help you write a interview winning covering letter.

Addressing your letter
It is important that you address your letter to the right person otherwise it could end up getting binned without anyone seeing it. This person could be the one who has placed the job advertisement or the decision maker in the HR department. If their name is not in the job advert then even consider phoning up the company to get it. The other advantage of having a name is that you have a contact that you can chase up about your application. 

Length of your covering letter
It should be no longer than one A4 page and in clearly laid out paragraphs. There should be no more than four paragraphs in total. A covering letter is just a introduction to your CV and so should be as brief as possible. For help with writing a resume visit our CV template page.

What content to put in a covering letter
Firstly you should introduce yourself then give details of the position you are applying for and also state where you saw it advertised.

Secondly explain why you are applying for the job, and how you feel you are the right candidate for the vacancy.

Thirdly give more in depth details of those skill sets and experiences that you feel make you a suitable applicant.

At the end respectfully ask for a interview for the vacancy so you can discuss your application in more detail.

Fonts and size
Always remain conservative with the typeface you use. It is best to use Times New Roman, Arial rather than say Comic Sans. Use Bold and Italic sparingly to emphasize keywords that you want to be notice, it is also generally not a good idea to underline words. Try to use text size 11 or 12 point in your letter.

Covering letter readability
The more readable your cover letter is then the better you will be at communicating with the reader. Try to ensure that your letter is not cluttered with meaningless words. A good tip is to get a friend to proof read it and go over your letter a few times to ensure that it makes sense and is easy to read. Remember that by having text that is easily read you can increase the retention, reading speed and focus of the reader.

Check for spelling mistakes
You should always proof read your covering letter to make sure it reads right. As well as use a spell checker to find and rectify any spelling errors.


Related career topics:

CV examples

Example of a cover letter

How to write a CV

Interview questions and answers 

Speculative covering letter

Writing a covering letter 


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