How to write a winning covering letter

06/04/2017

A letter? Like you used to send in the snail mail? With addresses and dates and proper wording?

How to write a winning covering letter

A letter? Like you used to send in the snail mail? With addresses and dates and proper wording?

Yes, we’re afraid that in this day and age of short, quick, maximum characters-led communication, there are still occasions when formality is required.

And a covering letter in support of a job application is one of these occasions. It is also not the occasion to rush, make errors or cut and paste, as that way disappointment lies.

With a job application, it’s really a one shot thing. Mess it up, that chance is gone, probably forever.

But we’re not trying to scare you. A covering letter is actually a real opportunity. An opportunity to introduce yourself to the person receiving your application and make that vital, fantastic first impression.

Cover the basics

So at the very least, if you are sending your CV somewhere, you should accompany it with a covering letter. This may be a request for work experience, an internship or in application to a job. At the most basic level, it may simply be stating that you are interested in x, and please find enclosed your CV/application.

But even in the most basic letter, the following principles must apply;

  • Your name and address top right
  • Further down on the left, the name, job title and organisation to whom you are writing
  • Under that the date
  • Then Dear Mr/Mrs (ideally you will have the name of the person responsible for handling your application, if not Dear Sir/Madam
  • Then Ref: With the nature of your letter

e.g. Ref: Request for work experience with the trading department

or Ref: Application for Graduate Scheme 2017

  • Explanation of what your letter is for

e.g. As discussed, please find attached my CV in support of my application for the above role.

  • Finish off with a ‘call to action’.

e.g. I hope that you find this helpful and I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Sign off properly;

Dear Sir/Madam = Yours faithfully

Dear Mr/Mrs = Yours sincerely

  • Thoroughly double check it.

Deliver a winning punch

So that’s the basics out the way. But your covering letter can do so much more.

Imagine a recruiter sat in their office with an inbox filled with CVs, applications and covering letters.

It’s a competitive world. Your application needs to stand out. And it needs to be powerful and persuasive.

*Arrogance Alert* This doesn’t mean come across as more qualified than the Chief Executive or use every cliché known to man.

It does mean come across as a professional, serious candidate, with appropriate qualities, who has a real passion and desire for the role and would therefore hugely appreciate any opportunity to work in that organisation.

Be confident in your abilities, but humble and respectful in your approach. And this is how to do it:

  1. Show your genuine respect for and interest in the organisation by actually knowing something about it. This means reading up on its products, services, successes, challenges. culture, top team and latest news. ‘I have been following (organisation name) with interest and am fascinated by the latest products you have brought to the market’. Or, ‘Having read about (organisation name) recently in the press, I have a real interest in finding out more and being part of such a successful team’. ‘My interest in (company name) stems from my passion for xx and my desire to work in a fast paced environment focused on innovation and bringing new products to market’.
  2. Ensure that you understand your own USPs (unique selling points) and get these across. ‘As a member of the engineering society I worked in a team that won an award for a design’. ‘My work on the student union website shows how I understand digital marketing and came up with new ideas that improved engagement’.
  3. Make sure you’re clear on the qualities required for the role and that you use relevant achievement and skills in your covering letter. If it’s a graduate scheme for a government department, evidence your interest in current affairs, public service and analytical and strategic skills. If it’s a scheme in IT or engineering, use evidence of scientific, research and problem solving skills and the ability to think innovatively. Don’t talk about your love for travel and foreign culture if no travel is ever likely to be required. Always tailor the content of the letter in line with what the recruiting organisation needs to know.
  4. Demonstrate what you could bring to the employer ‘The feedback from my work experience and internships is that I bring a positive energy to the team and provide solutions to challenges rather than running from them’. ‘In my short time in my internship I forged a great relationship with a key client which increased business, and this is a skill that I hope I could bring to (company name)’.
  5. Express what an offer of an internship or job would mean to you. *Soppy alert*. Don’t go over the top. No-one is going to believe that your first words were ‘I want to be an accountant mummy’. But if you’ve been interested all your life in engineering and it’s a field that you have an unwavering passion for, then say so.

Use examples, provide evidence of achievement and get across relevant, measurable, provable qualities. Come across as personal and human and genuinely interested in the company and role.

It’s a bit more work than the cut and paste. But to land the internship or graduate role of your dreams, it’s got to be worth it. And if this letter results in an interview, you’ll already have done a lot of preparation, so it’s a win-win.

From the mybrink team, good luck!