Career Advice

When applying for a job you should always include a covering letter. This is basically a more in-depth description of the facts you provide about yourself in a CV.

It is important to take just as much time on your covering letter as your CV as this is the first thing an employer will read when they receive your application.

The Basic Points to Remember

Here are some basic points to remember before you start writing your covering letter:

Cover the most important points of the job description.

The best way to make sure you do this is to have the description to hand with the main points highlighted.

Write in a personal style avoiding cliches and phrases.

To do this you should try and write how you speak, although it should still be formal. Avoid writing overused phrases such as "I am an excellent team player" as this is something the person reading will have heard a hundred times and your CV will already describe yourself as having 'team skills'.

Check spelling and grammar.

Yes this is the obvious no-brainer, however it is easy to make small mistakes and with the job market being so competitive any small spelling mistake could cost you the job. Ask a friend or family member with good reading skills to check over it for you as sometimes it is hard to proof read your own writing.

Don't attach letters to an email.

If you are sending your application in an email always copy and paste the covering letter in to the body of the email. Don't add it as an attachment because an empty email will look unprofessional and might also get placed in the recipients' spam folder.

Make it no longer than size A4.

You should stick to this length whether you are using a print or email covering letter because employers often scan over a page so it's best to have all the information directly to hand.

Layout and Content

The layout should be in a traditional letter format, if you are using Microsoft Word there are pre-set letter templates which make it easy. If not, you can also download templates online to follow.

It should have an introduction, three paragraphs and then the closing note, which will be "Yours Sincerel...".

For the introduction keep it simple and to the point and consider why you are writing to them, for example "I would like to be considered for the position of Teaching Assistant".

You can then use the next few paragraphs to talk more in depth about your CV.

Start off with some personal background information about yourself, what have you been doing up till now? Why are you personally interested in this job? You should mention your academic and professional background in relation to the specific role you are applying for.

In the next paragraph you can expand on your most relevant skills from your CV and describe how this will help you succeed in the job role.

For your final paragraph you should draw together the points you have already made, emphasising how you would be a perfect fit for the position. You should also mention that you would like to meet with the employer for an interview before writing the closing note.

What NOT to do

There are a few definite no-no's when it comes to writing a covering letter.

Do Not:

Use abbreviations. Always write all words out in full so it is professional.

Use the word 'I' all the way through as this is repetitive and boring to read. For example "I did a teaching assistant course" can be changed to "After successfully completing my teaching assistant course".

Mention things that have no relation to the job. Although you may have other good skills or experiences, you should keep these for the interview and only mention the main job relating points in your covering letter.

Forget to put your contact details on the top right-hand corner of the letter. This should include your name, address, number and email address.

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