Whilst the CV comprises the core of your application, containing all the basic information that your employer needs, a covering letter is a great way of selling yourself further by adding more personal information about yourself. It introduces you as a person to your employer, and should emphasise your interest in the position whilst closely mirroring the employer’s interests and emphasising relevant information in your CV.
A covering letter, although not a replacement for a good CV, can go miles to improving your job application by allowing you to expand on details mentioned in your CV and show that you are an interesting, well-rounded person. Use these tips to make the most of your covering letter:
- Send it either in the body of your email application, with the CV attached, or attached as a separate document
- Address the document directly to the person in charge of recruitment – find out their name if possible
- Concentrate on a few points from your CV, and expand on them. Use the opportunity to provide real examples of your skills that meet the job requirements
- Ensure the language used shows your individuality, interest and enthusiasm for the job – covering letters are not standardized CVs
- Avoid mentioning issues which employers may have a strong opinion about – religion, politics, social causes, and any possibly controversial interests
If you are struggling on getting started with a cover letter, start by identifying key points in the job description and key skills in the skill requirements section. Then think about the points below:
a) What you have done in your education or extra curricular activities?
b) What skills have they equipped you with?
c) How are these experiences/skills relevant to the job description?
Although a covering letter gives you more freedom and independence than a CV, it should still follow a standardized format compromising of different sections that are easy to read and do not ramble. Try to aim for a letter length of no more than one page.
- A header – if sent as a separate document, write it in standard business style, with the recipients address followed by the sender’s address and contact details and the date sent
- An introduction – state the position you are applying for, and try to use it to pique the employer’s interest
- The body – made up of no more than 3 paragraphs. Expand on relevant CV information, and express your own interest and suitability for the job you’re applying for. Try to be enthusiastic without going overboard
- A closing paragraph – this is where you will sum up any key points from the body of the letter. Try to end with a positive tone (e.g. I look forward to hearing from you…), and use a formal validation (e.g. Yours sincerely…).