Cover letter

Your covering letter is the first thing employers will see, so it's vital you get it right. Here's how to write one that will bag you that job.

boy fed up with covering letter

Skills: wasting post-its and pulling grumpy faces

So what exactly is a cover letter?

This is your chance to convey some basic information – what position you’re applying for, who you are, why you want the job and what you have to offer. It has to get this across in a single page and tempt the employer with some juicy morsels from your CV.

If you’re applying by email, you can write it in the body of an email or as an attachment; if you’re applying by post, send it as a printed letter. When employers take on a new member of staff they’re looking for two things. Firstly, they want someone who can do the job. Secondly, they want someone who wants to do the job – this enthusiasm is something that your covering letter can help to show-off.

How to write a cover letter

  • If you’re writing in letter form (attachment or printed), treat it as a formal letter: Put your name and address in the top right-hand corner, the employer’s name and address on the left-hand side, and a date below on the left or right.
  • In the first paragraph, state what you’re applying for, where you saw the job advertised, and give an overview of why you’re applying for it.
  • Read the job specification for the position you’re applying for. Write clearly and concisely to show that you have these qualities. Avoid replicating your CV, but refer to it where appropriate, elaborating with examples that relate to this role.
  • Explain why you are applying for this particular role. It might be that it provides a bigger challenge for you, or is in an area you have more interest in. If you have hobbies or previous experience related to the role, state them.
  • If there are practical reasons for changing jobs, e.g. you have just had a child and need more flexible hours, you do not need to include such factors at this stage – this is something that can be discussed at interview.
  • Make sure you say what you have enclosed with your letter (your CV, a test or any work you are asked to submit).
  • Sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’.
  • Check you have included your contact details on all the documents you send and on your email, so that someone can call you if they want you to come for interview.

Next Steps

  • Young Women's Trust offer a free telephone and online coaching service for women aged 18-30 to help with anything from work, life or building confidence. You can also get free advice on your CV or job application. Call 0808 808 8099.
  • Looking for a mentor to help boost your knowledge and skills? Find a youth zone close to you.
  • Reveal your skills with Define Me and find the right words to tell employers.
  • Download Motimator - an app that helps you get the career you want - by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of grumpy boy by Shutterstock