Focus On…How to write a Covering Letter

Unless an employer specifies not to, you should always include a covering letter with a CV job application. A covering letter is an advert for both you and your CV, and is the place to explain your motivation and enthusiasm for the job and expand and demonstrate some of the skills and competencies displayed on your CV. Remember it should complement, rather than duplicate your CV.

Do not even consider writing a generic covering letter – you may as well save the time and throw it in the bin yourself – it must be tailored for each and every role you apply for. Try using the questions below to help you structure your letter


Always try to find a name to write to rather than a job title as it shows that you have taken the time to research the company. If the advertisement does not specify, try contacting the company to find out. Dear Sir/Madam will do, but don’t use To Whom It May Concern, as it shows a lack of interest in who will be reading your letter.

1st paragraph – Who, Why and Where?

Who are you– I am a recent graduate with a 2:1 in XXX from the University of Kent.

Why are you writing – to apply for XXX position / looking for a Year in Industry placement…Make it clear what you are applying for as the company may be advertising for several positions at once, and where you saw the position advertised.

2nd paragraph – Why do you want this job?

Why do you want to work for this employer and what attracts you to this job. Show that you understand what the role will involve and that you have researched their company. We asked employers attending this year’s Careers Fair for top tips for applying to their company and most of them replied “DO YOUR HOMEWORK”. Avoid vague flattery – they know they are the best in their field – do you know why?

3rd paragraph – Why are you right for this job?

Highlight the skills, experience and personal attributes that make you right for this job. Don’t try to cover every aspect of the role but illustrate your unique selling points with two or three good examples.

Last paragraph

Use this to restate your interest, summarise your suitability and state your availability for interview. End on a positive statement “Thank you for taking the time to read my application”, “I look forward to hearing from you”.

Signing off

Use “Yours sincerely” if you have addressed the letter to a particular name, “Yours faithfully” if starting with “Dear Sir/Madam”.

Presentation – A few hints

  • Your letter is a business document; make it clear, concise and well-presented
  • Before you start, set the Word document default language to English UK.
  • Try to stick to a single page. If it doesn’t fit, maybe you’ve written too much
  • Read your letter aloud, it will help you identify sentences that are too long, or are not clear
  • Get someone else to check it for you. Bring it to a Careers & Employability Service drop in session for feedback, advice and tips on how to improve it.

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