No matter how good your CV is, you need to support it with an equally well-written covering letter or email. It will be the first thing that the employer sees, so you want it to make a positive impact. This is your chance to show that you understand the company and to link your experience directly to their requirements.
Written Cover letters
If you’re posting your CV to an employer, your cover letter should follow a formal structure that includes your address and contact number, the name of the person you’re contacting, their company address and the date. Once that’s done, you need to make the content of the letter really count:
- Research the company
Again, just like your CV, make your content relevant. Find out as much as you can about the company from their website, job adverts and descriptions, and the media. The more you know, the more you can tailor your letter to meet their specific requirements. Make it relevant to the current activities of the company – for example, if it has just expanded into a new country, mention if you speak that language.
- Don’t waffle
You’re not writing your autobiography, you’re notifying the employer that you have the skills, experience and attitude they need. If your letter is too long, the employer may not even bother reading it, so keep to the point. If you’re making a speculative approach you could try listing your skills against their requirements.
- Always proofread
There really is no excuse for leaving spelling or grammar mistakes in your letter but don’t rely on Word to fix everything for you. Read your letter over and, ideally, get someone else to check it too.
Email Cover letters
These days you’re more likely to email your application to an employer, rather than post it, but you still need to treat it with the same care and attention:
- Don’t add your letter as an attachment
Your email is your covering letter and you want the employer to be able to read it, no matter what. Sometimes the employer might have a problem opening an attachment (including your CV), so you want them to be able to read your letter at the very least. If you’ve done a good job researching them and highlighting your relevant skills, they may have enough information to decide to shortlist you even if they can’t open your CV.
- Start with “Dear…”
Don’t be tempted to use “Hi” or other less formal phrases in your email – this is still a formal application and you want to make a good impression.
- Don’t use formatting
Avoid bullet points, bold text and other formatting as you don’t know how the employer’s email software will display it. You want your email to be easy to read, so keep the layout simple.
- Attach your CV as a Word doc
Don’t forget to attach your CV and make sure you send it as a Word file. It’s the most widely used format so it should be viewable by everyone.