Covering letters and emails

Always send a covering letter or email with your CV, unless the advert tells you not to
 
Nowadays, you are more likely to be sending your CV by email than by post, with a covering message in the body of the email.
 
If you are using an online job board, you will be asked to upload your CV to the site so that it can be automatically forwarded to the organisation advertising the vacancy when you click the ‘Apply’ button. There will often be a space in which you are expected to insert a covering message. When using job boards you will sometimes be asked to email your CV to the advertisers, in which case you will need to include a covering email.
 
Your covering letter or email is the first impression that the potential employer will get of you. It’s your chance to say why you want the job and to give the main reasons why you’re suitable. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they may not even look at your CV. It must therefore be as carefully planned and as well laid out as your CV. It should not be too long, in the case of a printed letter no longer than one page. Use the same font as you use for your CV.​
 
If you are sending a covering letter (rather than an email), put your contact details over to the right of the page. Then, below these and on the left, address your covering letter to the person named in the advertisement, together with their job title, and the name and address of the organisation. If you don’t know who to address it to, you should contact the employer to get the name of the relevant person and their title – Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms, or Dr, their position (job title) and department. This information might also be on their website. Be formal – do not use their first name. Instead use their initial(s) and surname - spelt correctly! [However, some adverts make it clear that they want you to address the application to their HR Department rather than to a particular person.]
 
Then put: Today’s date. Below that put Dear ???, and below that, in bold, put down the Job title [as stated in the advertisement] and reference code [if there is one].
 
A covering email need not include either your address or the company’s.  Start your email with Dear (person’s name) - don’t say 'Hi' - and the vacancy’s Job title and reference code. Just because email and the Internet have speeded up communication, this doesn’t mean that you can use the quick or casual language that you might use when emailing or texting friends. Don't abbreviate words and make sure you write in full sentences. Informal language will not create the right impression with an employer.)
 
Then say why you are writing to the company - say that you would like to be considered for the position and say where you saw the advertisement. Summarise your current situation and say why you are attracted to the vacancy and the organisation.
 
Don’t repeat everything that you have included in your CV. Draw attention to a couple of your main selling points and say why they would help the organisation.
 
Avoid using phrases like ‘I think I could gain valuable experience with your company’. To be blunt, the employer is more interested in what you can do for them than in what they can do for you.
 
You might mention something to which they refer in the job advertisement or  in their company information e.g. that you’re very keen to work with them as part of their exciting new expansion plans.
 
You can also use your covering letter or email to explain any gaps in your employment history or a disability.
 
Mention any dates that you won't be available for interview. Thank them for considering you and say you look forward to hearing from them soon. Then put ‘Yours sincerely,’ (If you really cannot address it to a particular individual, start with 'Dear Sir / Madam' and finish with 'Yours faithfully').
 
Don't forget to sign your covering letter! Your name should also be printed underneath.
 
A good covering letter or email makes the employer want to read more about you in your CV. It shows them that you know what the job involves, what they want from candidates, and how much you want the job. It makes them invite you for an interview!
 
For more about covering letters, take a look at:
How do write a covering letter? (National Careers Service) Includes 'Covering letter makeovers' - examples of letters before and after they've been improved.