Writing a cover letter
The aim of a cover letter is to persuade an employer to read your CV - so it's vital to make an impact with yours. It needs to highlight why you're interested in the job and why you're suitable for the role you're applying for.
Tips for a good cover letter
- Target your cover letter towards the employer and the job - researching the employer is essential to show knowledge of the position applied for, and how you fit in the company
- Highlight relevant information from your CV – but don't just copy and paste
- Use the cover letter to explain any inconsistencies in your CV such as gaps in your employment history
- Tell the employer how their company will benefit from employing you
- Make sure the paragraphs are short and clearly themed
- Use no more than one side of A4
- Wherever possible, address the cover letter to a named person - you may have to ring the employer to find the name of the person you should be writing to
How to structure your cover letter
Start with your contact details in the top right-hand corner of the A4 letter.
Then write the company address in the top left-hand corner.
You should try and find out the name of the person to whom you're addressing the letter. If it’s not possible, you should use "Dear Sir/Madam".
In the next line, include a reference to the job title and reference number such as "RE: Graduate Trainee – Finance stream (reference: abc/123/pb)".
The first section of a cover letter is a chance to briefly introduce yourself. Include what subject you are studying at University and at what stage of University you are. Confirm the role that you're applying for and where you saw it advertised.
The next sections should consist of no more than two or three brief paragraphs. Explain why you're interested in the role and provide evidence to support your interest. For example, you may want to talk about work experience or aspects of your course that inspired your interest. Ensure all your evidence from your studies, work experience and volunteering is related directly to the position you're applying for.
Evidence how you meet the job requirements, keeping it clear and concise. Explain your specific interest in the organisation you’re applying to and why you want to work for them. You need to research the employer well. You may want to evidence your interest in one of the organisation’s projects, area of work, ethos or values. Make sure you come across well prepared. Remember to be positive in explaining what you could contribute to the role and the business of the employer.
In the final paragraph, remember to conclude the letter on a friendly note. Thank the reader for their attention and for considering your application. You can also use this space to offer to supply additional information, such as a reference.
End the letter by signing off "Yours sincerely" if addressed to a person or "Yours faithfully" if you have addressed it to Sir/Madam.
The decision to disclose a disability to an employer is a personal one and may be based on factors such as the nature of the disability and the demands of the role being applied for. Disabilities can be disclosed in a cover letter, but may also be disclosed at other stages in the application process and decisions about this are largely a matter of personal preference and judgement.
If disclosing disabilities, always do so in a very positive manner, explaining any assistance that may be needed. If necessary, speak with a careers adviser or contact the employer directly before sending in any applications to discuss any support that may be required during the selection process or in the role itself. It's important to answer any direct questions from the employer fully and honestly.
If you are a student or graduate with a disability, disclosing your disability is a personal choice. You could choose to disclose your disability within the cover letter. Alternatively, you may choose to wait and discuss this in person at a later date. We have a guide to disability, equality and diversity when applying for jobs.