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How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter

A good cover letter will get your CV or application form noticed. Follow our guide on how to write an effective cover letter.

Cover letter explained

A cover letter introduces you to an employer and asks them to think about your application. It’s a short letter - 3 to 5 paragraphs - that you should send with your CV or application form. Write it as an email if you’re applying online or print off a typed copy to go with a paper application.

When to use a cover letter

When you apply for a job using a CV or application form you should always include a cover letter.

Do your research

Check the company’s website to learn more about their products and services. Also, look up recent news items about them. If you know someone who works there, talk to them about what it’s like. Check our advice on networking for more help on this.

Send it to the right person

Check you have the details of the person you need to send your letter to. You'll need their name and preferred title, for example; Dr, Mr, Mrs, Ms, and their job title. You should also have the right company name and address including a postcode.

It's important to try to address your letter to someone by name. If the job advert does not include a name you can check the company website. Try to find details of the head of the department, head of human resources or a recruitment manager. If you cannot find a name, you can start your letter with, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.

Write your opening paragraph

Introduce yourself and explain how you found the advertised job. You can mention the job title, and reference number if there is one. If you’re asking about possible job openings rather than an actual vacancy, tell them the kind of job you’re looking for. Let the employer see how keen you are to work for them.

Show you're right for the job

Show that you understand what the employer is looking for by highlighting the skills and experience you have that match what they want. Convince them that you're enthusiastic about working for them because you share their work values, culture and style.

Give extra information

If you’ve mentioned on your CV that you have a disability, you might want to talk more about this in your cover letter. Organisations like Disability UK can give you advice on how to do this. You do not have to mention your disability at this stage if you prefer not to.

If you have gaps in your employment history, you could talk about the skills you gained while you were out of work.

Pull it all together

Thank the employer for considering your application. Invite them to get more details from your CV. Tell them you're looking forward to hearing from them and let them know how you prefer to be contacted, for example by telephone, email or post. Make sure your contact details are correct on both your cover letter and CV.

Sign off in the right way

If you’ve written to a named person remember to sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you started your letter, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, then it’s ‘Yours faithfully’. Remember to send your CV as an attachment if you’re applying by email. Enclose a copy of your printed CV if you are making an application by post.

Cover letter tips

When writing your cover letter, remember to:

  • write a new one for every application you do and make sure it’s targeted to each company and the specific job
  • use the same lettering style and size as you did for your CV, so it looks consistent
  • make sure the company name and recruiter’s details are correct
  • use the right language and tone - keep it professional and match the keywords used by the employer in their job advert
  • be clear and to the point, 3 to 5 paragraphs neatly laid out is enough
  • show you’ve done your research into the job and the company
  • stand out from other applicants by highlighting your most relevant skills and experience
  • back up any statements you make with facts - use the STAR method to help with this
  • double check spelling and grammar before you send it
  • keep a copy of your cover letter - you may be asked about it at interview
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.