What’s the point of a covering letter?

So you’ve spent ages on your CV – you’ve made sure it’s presented really well and covers all the key points of the job description and you’re pretty happy with it. You’re ready to upload it but they’re asking for a covering letter as well. You can probably just bash something off in five minutes and get it done – after all, what’s the point of a covering letter when all the information’s in your CV?

It’s easy to think like this, because applying for jobs can be a demoralising process with plenty of rejections (as well as stony silence), but covering letters do have an important part to play in how recruiters assess you. It’s well worth spending time to make yours as effective as possible, as covering letters give you the opportunity to persuade recruiters of your suitability for the role by describing your skills and experience in a more personal way than on your fact-based CV, and also point out things that they may have otherwise missed.

If that’s convinced you, here’s some things to remember for your next covering letter…

Your CV and covering letter should work as a package

You can make your application look the part quite easily by using the same fonts and formatting in both, but also bear in mind that they will be read together so don’t reference things in your covering letter that aren’t in your CV. Make sure your spelling and grammar is spot on and use our guide to help you structure it effectively.

Your covering letter is your argument as to why you’d be the best person for the job

If your application was a courtroom drama, your CV would be the evidence, the indisputable facts about your skills and experience that make you suitable for the job. Your covering letter would be the closing statement, the compelling argument that would swing the ‘jury’ (the recruiters in this metaphor) to agree that you are the ideal candidate.

Use the person specification to work out what to write about

Just like your CV, your letter should be tailored to the job description, so pick out interesting and impressive details about your experience that are relevant to the role. Remember that you are trying to convince recruiters that you are the best person for the job so think about your unique qualities that set you apart from others.

Talk about your connection to the organisation

What is it about this job and company that attracts you? If you have worked at or visited the organisation previously that can be a great starting point, they could be the industry leader in a field that you are passionate about, or perhaps you particularly relate to the organisation’s mission statement or ethical principles (an organisation’s About Us webpages is usually where you find this info). Describing this is a good tactic to help the recruiter see how you fit in the role, and if you can also talk about what you can do for them this also adds weight to your overall application.

One page only

As a final thought, remember that recruiters are busy people so try and keep it to the point- if it’s over a page, it’s TOO LONG!

For help with your covering letter, CV or application, feel free to book an appointment with us via My Career and Employability Centre. We’re open all summer!