UK Distance Learning & Publishing offers courses for all kinds of subjects, and we believe very firmly in education for education’s sake. However, we do understand that most of our students are taking an online course with a view to getting a job at the end of it. That’s why we try to offer our students a little bit of extra support for their job-hunting. You may have seen one of our previous articles on improving your CV, but today I want to talk about covering letters. A good covering letter can be the difference between getting your CV looked at or ignored.
What is a covering letter?
For those who don’t know, a covering letter is what most employers expect a job applicant to send in along with their CV. It’s technically just a formal means of saying that you wish to be considered for the job, but it also gives you an opportunity to express why you think you would be a good candidate. In this respect it’s a bit like a personal statement.
Who should I address it to?
This seems like a minor point, but it can make a significant difference. Sometimes, you won’t be able to find out the name of the end recipient of letter. In this case, just address it to sir/madam. However, if at all possible, find out the name and address it them, even it means going on the website of the company you’re applying for and searching for the head of recruitment. This kind of personal touch shows that you’re really invested in applying for this particular job, and will set you apart from those who couldn’t be bothered to do a little extra research
How should I structure my covering letter?
There are no hard and fast rules to this, but a good basic structure might go like this: Fist, say that you want to be considered for the position of x, then state, quite simply, what your qualifications are for the job, then what relevant experience you have, then sign off with a thank you for their consideration. All of this should be very focused, and only include the information that is most relevant to the position. Your entire covering letter should not be any more than a single page of double-spaced, twelve-point typeface.
Can I just reuse my covering letter for all my applications?
NO! Well…a bit. It’s perfectly okay to create one good covering letter and use this as a template, but if you really want to stand out you need to tailor it to each different job. This can be as simple as mentioning the specific job title you are applying for, to dropping in some research you’ve done on the company. So, imagine you were applying to be a manager in a shop, you might mention in your paragraph about relevant experience that you know this particular shop is soon going to be extending its range of x product, and that you have professional experience of managing this kind of transition. Little details like this show the employer that you’ve given serious thought to the position, and that you aren’t just applying for everything and anything in the hope of a reply (even if this is actually what you’re doing!)
How shall I sign off?
The general rule for letters is that if you have spoken to the person before, you sign of ‘Yours sincerely’, but if you haven’t (as will be the case for most stuff you apply for) you should sign of ‘Yours faithfully’. However, people are generally far less stuffy about these kinds of things nowadays, and something a bit less formal such as ‘Best wishes’, or ‘Many thanks’, is also perfectly acceptable. The most important thing is that you come across as professional, and genuinely interested and enthusiastic about the role.