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Covering letter advice

Your covering letter is the first thing a prospective employer will see and they will judge you on it immediately. If they like what they read, they'll move on to your CV. If they don’t, your CV may not even be glanced at. To make sure your CV gets seen, follow our tips for writing a professional and impactful covering letter.

When sending your CV in response to a job advertisement, you should attach a brief covering letter of no more than one page in length. If you don’t know the person you’re writing to avoid using their first name - use their title and surname instead.  Avoid writing to 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam' - you should make the effort to find out the hirer's name.  However, if you cannot personalise the letter then ensure you adhere to the standard conventions below:

  • letters beginning Dear Sir / Madam should close with Yours faithfully
  • letters beginning Dear Mr XXXXXX should close with Yours sincerely

The structure of your covering letter

  • Begin your letter by making a clear reference to the job role you’re applying for e.g. Re: Store Manager, Exeter Q84523
  • Stress that you’re very interested in the role and feel you are the best candidate
  • Highlight the skills you have and how they are relevant to the job but avoid quoting sections of you CV verbatim
  • Explain briefly why you want to work for this company in particular – demonstrate your knowledge of the organisation
  • Briefly state your reasons for seeking a new role but avoid being negative about your current employer / situation.
  • Close by reiterating your interest and that you can make yourself available for interview should they wish to meet with you

It's always worth adapting your covering letter to ensure it doesn't look like a one-size-fits-all letter of introduction. This may seem a lot of work but if you don’t tailor your covering letter it severely lessens its impact. Experienced recruiters will receive lots of standard covering letters and can spot these very easily.

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