How to write a covering letter

JanetBy Janet Ratchford, SFL Team Leader

Writing a letter for a job is not like writing a letter to a friend. Firstly, you need to show the employer  that you know how to set out a letter properly, then that you use a more formal type of language with clients and colleagues. Finally you need to convince the employer you are the right person for the job by using persuasive language.

Before you get started

Check to see if the advertisement mentions sending a printed C.V. or using your own handwriting and follow the instructions.  Use a word processor if possible. If you are asked to write a letter by hand always use black ink and write as neatly as possible.

The advert may also ask you to email your C.V. rather than post it; again follow the instructions stated and instead of a covering letter provide a covering email.

Read the advertisement carefully to understand what the employer wants. Research the company and find out about their background, products and/or services. Make notes and highlight key words as these may be useful for your cover letter and further down the line if you get invited to interview. Also, find out the name of the person you should write to.

Introduction to your letter

Begin the letter with Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms [surname]. If you don’t know the name of the person who will receive the letter use Dear Sir/Madam. The first sentence should state why you are writing the letter. For example; ‘I am writing to you and enclose my CV as I wish to apply for the position of [job title].’ Following this sentence you should mention where you saw the job advert or if relevant, who told you about the vacancy.

Sell yourself

Write the letter in a way that says you want to do this job for this company and not just any job for any company. Don’t say anything that will not help you get the job.

Use appropriate language and stick to the main point – that you are the ideal person for this job. Try not to write more than four paragraphs and keep you cover letter to a single side of A4.

Covering letter sign off

If you write to a named person use ‘Yours sincerely’ at the end; otherwise say ‘Yours faithfully’. Include two line spaces and then type your name. In the space remember to sign your name too.

Checking, sending and follow up

When you have finished, leave it half an hour then read through it again. Check your spelling and punctuation or even better; get someone else to proof read it!

Once you are happy with the letter fold it neatly in to an envelope. Address the envelope clearly and use an envelope that fits the letter. Keep a copy of the letter, with a note of when you sent it.

Telephone the company after a few days to check if they have received your letter and whether they want to see you for a meeting or interview.

Some more useful cover letter tips can be found on this website and to get started, download our Cover letter template and replace the boxes with your information.

If you want to learn more about covering letters and get easy tips on the type of language to use, improving your CV or successful interview techniques then take part in one of our monthly courses in Middleton or Bury. Myself and the team will work with you over two and a half weeks to boost your confidence and improve your chances of getting a job. If you would like to join, send an email to janet.ratchford@groundwork.org.uk  or give me a call on 0161 654 4390. Classes are friendly, informal and free of charge.

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