Learn how to write a compelling covering letter

Welcome to Career Academy. At The Nottingham, we believe in driving young people’s aspiration for the future. Moving from education to employment is an exciting journey but one that can require a lot of skills to reach your full potential.

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A covering letter, sometimes just called a cover letter, is a written introduction from you to a recruiter that would accompany your CV or application. It would traditionally be a paper letter, however these days it could also be an email. However, as a rule if the job advert asks for a letter, write a letter even if you attach it to an email or input into the ‘About me’ section of an online application.

Learning how to structure and write a letter like this is an important skill. There are plenty of templates to download online but most importantly, ensure you use the correct salutation (the way the letter is addressed) and sign off. If you know the name of the person you need to address it to, use it. If you don’t, start with ‘To whom it may concern’. 

Your letter is your opportunity to sell yourself, explain how you meet the role’s criteria and why your CV is worth a read. It is also your chance to demonstrate how your skills and experience are relevant to the role such as:

  • Communication - Writing, speaking and listening are all communication skills and using your email cover letter appropriately can demonstrate some of these
  • Critical thinking – You can also show your skills in analysis, problem-solving, strategic planning and decision-making within your cover letter
  • Self-management – Explain your skills with good time management as well as demonstrating that you are organised, motivated, responsible and reliable
  • Interpersonal – You can also use your letter to explain that you are understanding, diplomatic, discreet, supportive and assertive

Your cover letter doesn’t need to be very long, nor is it intended to replace your CV, so you should aim for it to be no longer than a few paragraphs. It is usually a good idea to include things like your current situation in terms of employment and your aspirations for the future. Some job adverts will specifically ask for details such as current salary or notice period too so don’t forget to include these if it asks for it. 

A covering letter should be a professional introduction to you and your suitability to perform in the role that you are applying for. Therefore ensure you do not use, jargon, slang, or language you would use in a text message.  

Finally, always ensure you get someone to check your letter for spelling and grammar and to see how it reads. Some recruiters will also be willing to give you feedback if you ask too. 

Now you know the all important things to include in your cover letter, get writing! Don’t forget to check out the rest of Career Academy for tips on interviewing and presentation skills. 

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