A covering letter is an essential ingredient of any job application: your chance to show a company that you want what they’re offering and more importantly, that they will want to hire you. Coupled with a succinct CV, a covering letter will be what gets you through the door and into that interview room. So how do you word a letter that will catch the eye of a prospective employer? 

An employer may not get to the end of your covering letter if the opening paragraph doesn’t grab their interest. You don’t need to do anything showy in the first sentence, just get to the point about who you are – perhaps referring to your current job or a significant qualification – and why you wish to work for the company. For example, if you’re looking to get in-house experience in a laws firm, explain why you feel this role would provide you with that. 

You’ve told your prospective employer why you’re interested in them, now move on to why they should choose you over the other applicants. Check the job description and person specification for the key responsibilities and experience needed, and make sure you cover these. 

If you’re making a speculative application, you won’t have specific details, but you can check career guides on the web to determine what kind of things businesses will be looking for. It’s also doubly important to research the company itself, demonstrating in your words how you feel your skillset would benefit them. 

While it’s important to sell yourself, don’t overwrite or come across as arrogant – a covering letter should fit comfortably on one page, with just a few short paragraphs. 

Your concluding paragraph only needs to be a couple of lines long; simply thank them for their consideration and mention that you are looking forward to meeting with them. If you are not responding to a particular job advert, you could suggest discussing the position further at a later date or say that you will follow up your letter with a phone call. 

It should be obvious, but still merits saying: spellcheck your covering letter before you send it off! If you need formatting help, there are various good templates you can start from (but remember to tailor it to your individual voice, so it doesn’t sound like a stock letter). If you can’t find a contact name on the job information, ring up and find out who to address the letter to. Apply the correct signature: for example, it’s ‘Yours sincerely’ when you know who you’re speaking to.  

The main thing to remember is that you are trying to put forward an argument in a clear and concise manner. A covering letter should be a piece of persuasive writing as much as it is an informative one. This will be the first impression that a potential employer receives, so make sure you look like the kind of candidate they want on their staff. 

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