The aim of a covering letter is to encourage potential employers to read your CV.
While a CV sets out your skills and experience, the covering letter gives you the opportunity to show how your skills fit the job on offer.
It can be used to highlight parts of your CV which might be of particular interest to a recruiter, or to draw attention to additional information that doesn’t fit easily into a CV.
It can also be useful for explaining any personal circumstances which may be important to your application.
Do I really need to write a covering letter?
Whether you’re going for a graduate traineeship or a job as a relief milker, a covering letter is an important way for you to sell yourself and explain why an employer should consider you.
George Gordon, managing director of farm relief and contract recruitment firm LKL Services, says while his candidates fill out an online application form, he would also encourage people to write in with a CV and covering letter.
“A covering letter should show enthusiasm for the job and highlight the experience and qualifications which would make you right for the role,” he says.
“For on-farm jobs, the covering letter gives you the chance to set out geographical preferences and your family situation, which can be important if the role comes with accommodation.”
Taking the time to tailor letters for each role is also important, says Mr Gordon.
“You can have a template letter and CV, but make sure you customise it for each job to give different emphasis on that particular role so the reader really appreciates why you are suitable.
“It’s nice when you get a letter and you think you can see exactly why the person wants the job, and then hopefully the CV will flesh that out further.”
It’s nice to have a template CV but customise it for each job to give different emphasis on the job to make the reader appreciate why they are suitable.
What to include:
Introduction – explain why you are writing. If you are replying to an advert, say where and when you saw the advert
Experience and skills – briefly explain your current job and relevant qualifications. Draw attention to relevant aspects of your experience and how it would be useful for the role on offer. Sell your personal qualities and try to match them to the employer’s job requirements.
The perfect team – explain why you want to work for the business and what you know about them. Showing you have done some research into the company shows you are keen and enthusiastic.
A positive sign-off – say you would appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed and let them know when you are available.
- check the letter doesn’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes
- check you have sent the letter to the right person. If you are unsure, phone the company and check who will be responsible for dealing with applications
- keep the letter short and factual, no more than a page in length and laid out clearly with plenty of white space. If your letter is written as part of an email, apply the same formalities as you would in a letter
- think from the employer’s perspective – tell them what you can offer
- avoid including negative information
- regurgitate your CV
- send out standard covering letters
- ignore specific instructions with your application – make sure you include any information the employer requests in the job description