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How to write a great covering letter
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A great covering letter can differentiate your CV from the countless others that pass across an employer's desk. Make sure yours stands out.
When responding to an advertised job vacancy, whether via letter, email or fax, you should always include a covering letter with your CV. Treat it as a vital part of your personal marketing literature, which merits attention and consideration. A cover letter introduces you and your CV and is your first chance to make a good impression on your potential employer. Aim to make it entice the reader to take those few extra minutes to consider you against other applicants. Your CV should not be sent without one!
Below are some basic guidelines to help ensure you receive a positive response from your initial contact.
Appearance and layout
Ensure your letter is neatly and clearly presented with no grammatical or spelling errors. Emails should be written in a common font with standard formatting and should emulate a handwritten letter in terms of style.
The content of your cover letter should be brief and structured, avoid lengthy repetition of information covered in your CV. (Unlike a CV, it is acceptable to write a covering letter in the first person.) In particular:
Your letter should address the relevant contact, whose name often appears in the job advert. Avoid Sir or Madam if possible.
If you are replying to an advert, say so. Mention job title, any reference number and where and when you saw it.
In some cases an advert will indicate a more substantial letter is required. Always follow a specific instruction and include any information if it is particularly requested, for example, current salary.
Briefly outline your current situation and why you are seeking change. Include current or last job, qualifications and professional and academic training, tailoring your information to make it as relevant as possible to the organisation or job applied for.
Tell the potential employer a little about themselves to demonstrate you have properly read the advert and that you have done some research into the organisation. Also, state why you are interested in them as an employer.
You need to succinctly emphasise why an employer may want to meet and employ you. Highlight your transferable skills, achievements and versatility; what you can contribute and what makes you different. Mention personality traits relevant to the role applied for, taking care not to appear too subjective.
Ensure the letter flows freely however and does not slavishly match every point on the job description. The reader should be left with an overall impression that you are a potentially valuable addition to the workforce.
Negative information of any sort should be avoided in your covering letter as well as CV.
Close your letter with a polite expression of interest in further dialogue with the recruiter. Do mention that you would like the opportunity to discuss your suitability further at an interview and that you await a response in due course.