How to write a Covering Letter

How to hit the nail on the head

How to write a Covering Letter


Covering Letters/emails are important accompaniments to your CV.

An effective covering letter will add strength to your application and can make all of the difference. It is where you state the case to your potential employer that it is crucial to the future of their business that they meet with you. It reinforces the Winning Points that you are making in your CV. Sometimes the covering letter will get you the interview without your CV being properly scrutinised. Sometimes it is the other way round. This is “belt and braces” stuff; you really do need both. And there is a right way and a wrong way to construct yoiur Covering Letter.  Here is my 10 point guide to hitting the nail on the head.

1. Pull out the “Key Requirements” If you are applying for an advertised role analyse the advertisement for the role’s “key requirements”: pull out the key skills, attributes and achievements that your potential employer states that they seek. Sometimes you will also have access to a Job Description or Person Specification. The same principles apply. For example, if the advertisement says: “must have experience of managing budgets”, highlight it. Most good advertisements make this easy for you by stating what they are looking for. Then, when writing your covering letter make sure that you prominently state your ability to meet those key requirements. If they are asking for XYZ, and you are telling them that you have XYZ, why would they not interview you? Do it, it really works.

2. When you are writing speculatively, “Key Requirements” are just as important. Speculative approaches to companies for whom you would like to work also necessitate the same approach. In this case it is important to do your homework. Search the web, read the trade press, talk to people in your network about the business. Reflect this homework in your covering letter. Show your potential employer in your covering letter that you are smart and have done your due diligence. You may be applying because you have heard that their marketing director is leaving. You are the marketing director of their competitor. Explain to them how you would affect their marketing for the better.

3. Use your CV. Your CV should prominently illustrate your Successes and value to your previous employers (it will if I wrote it!). A CV Coach will have pulled out all of your “Winning Points”. Do not be afraid to repeat your Winning Points in your covering letter. They must be prominent in both the letter AND your CV. Belt and Braces.

4. Write to the correct person Write to the person to whom the job reports. Even better, write to their boss. Do your homework. Avoid HR or in-house recruiters if you can. Go straight to the Decision Maker. Use Linkedin, ring up and ask, review company reports – just get the name. If you are struggling, ask Reception for the correct Job Title, and use that. If you are applying for a Technical Officer role, reporting to the Technical Manager, write to his boss, the Technical Director. People at the top admire people who take the initiative. If the Technical Director likes your letter 9 out of 10 times they will tell the Technical Manager to interview you. And we all do what out bosses tell us, don’t we?

5. Make it snappy and to the point. One page maximum. The first paragraph must state who you are, what is your current position, and why you are writing to them. The next couple of paragraph set out your case. Show them your research. Illustrate with short examples your ability to meet their key requirements. Use your Winning Points.

6. Get the tone right and use emotion language. A bit of flattery or humour is OK. Your research will tell you this company’s culture: formal, quirky or creative? Quirky or creative companies will respond to quirky or creative letters. This approach can really work well, but if the wrong person reads it on the wrong day, it can also backfire. If in doubt therefore play it straight. In any case tell them that you admire them, and give an example to explain why (wonderful products, market leadership or widely admired attitudes towards corporate social responsibility – whatever it may be). Emotion language is also important when describing yourself and your ambitions and objectives. You are “passionate”, “enthusiastic”, “determined” and excited”.

7. Do Not Lie Firstly – it’s wrong – so don’t do it! Secondly, you may just talk yourself into a job for which you are completely inappropriate and which is completely inappropriate to you!

8. Quality control If you are writing on paper buy some good quality stationery. Sign the letter with an ink pen. Write the address on the envelope by hand in ink, marked “Private and Confidential”. It is more likely to get to the Decision maker and no to be intercepted by his P.A. Check your grammar, and your spelling. Don’t just rely on a spellchecker, your typo might be a real word, and get past you. Give your letter to a trusted family member, friend or colleague to check. Re-write the letter a couple of times. Get it perfect.

9. Close the Deal State that you would “love to meet you and to have the opportunity to explain to you in person why I believe that I can play a key role in the continued success of Bloggs and Co”

10. Follow up Tell them that you will follow up by telephone and by when. Then do it.

If you like my advice on CVs, Interviews and Job Hunting please sign up for updates, and please tell your friends. If you don’t like my advice – please keep it to yourself.

If you would rather The Professional CV Writer wrote this letter for you, we can!

Just ring us and we will talk you through how we can write a winning Cover letter for you. Call on +(0)44 333 300 1296.


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