With the CV complete, the next stage is to send it off to prospective employers that have been found. When doing this it is necessary to write a job application cover letter. This cover letter will accompany the CV. Its main aim is to enable your CV to be read rather than just being placed into the "pending" file or even the waste bin.
With many large organisations receiving vast quantities of CVs, it is necessary to provide as much help as possible to ensure that your CV is read. A well written job application cover letter or CV cover letter will explain what job you are applying for and why. It will detail some of the salient points in the CV to provide an introduction into the CV itself.
Often the job application CV cover letter can be considered as being equally important with the CV itself. It is well worth investing time and effort in making the letter as compelling as possible.
Although the application letter may be considered as being only used with paper applications, often there is a requirement for an accompanying letter with many online job applications. If not there may be a section asking why you are applying, and some of the words from the letter can be used for this.
By preparing a good job application cover letter, it is possible to use this for paper applications and then use the content for any online applications that may also be made.
Job application cover letter basics
The job application letter format should be short and succinct. It may possibly contain four or five paragraphs which could be structured as below:
Opening paragraph: The opening paragraph is an introduction. It will state which job you are applying for and possibly where you saw any job advertisement. It may also state that the CV is enclosed.
The opening paragraph could read something like:
I am writing to apply for the position of xxxxx which was advertised in / on yyyyy. As requested I have enclosed a copy of my CV, copies of my certification, and the names of two people who are able to supply references as requested.
This paragraph would obviously need to be finely tailored to suit the application in terms of where the advertisement was seen, or how you hear about it, the information supplied and the number of referees provided, indeed, if referees are required at the is stage.
Second paragraph: This section of the job application cover letter can be used to explain why you are applying detailing what particular experience skills or reasons you have that would make you suitable for the job.
The second paragraph could be worded something like:
The position you have described sounds very exciting and it would fit very well with my experience, training and skills. The key strengths I have for this role include:
- Mention one key area where your skill set would be of great advantage.
- Second strength, skill, experience or training.
- Third strength, skill, experience or training.
It is probably best to limit the number of bullet points (if you want ti sue bullet points) to about three, otherwise the letter starts to become a bit too long, and it may start to repeat the CV, rather than add a new perspective.
Third paragraph: This paragraph can be used to explain why you would be of particular value to the company, and give them a reason for taking your application further.
This paragraph could be used to provide an example of something you have achieved that would benefit the new company.
One of my recent successes has been to lead a project to improve the quality and accuracy of information provided by our development department to production. This reduced the number of errors occurring in the initial production phases of new products by 50%, thereby saving an estimated £500,000 a year. This experience may be of interest to you in the role for which I am applying.
For this paragraph, try to think of some area in which you have achieved a significant success. This can be large or small, dependent upon the nature of the position, but it always helps to something that shows you have initiative and the will to work with others and succeed.
Closing paragraph: This section can be used to state when you would be available to be contacted and interviewed, detailing any times when you may not be available.
This paragraph is the last one and is typically quite short, but will invite the company to contact you if they need to for any reason. It may include your phone number and / or email address - they will already have your postal address at the head of the letter, and although they are likely to have your contact int he CV, it does no harm to provide it again.
I hope that you find my application of interest. If you have any need, please feel free to contact me either by phone (07989 xxxxxx) or by email (email@example.com).
For applications, especially for professional positions, it always helps to have a professional looking email. Emails addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org do not look good on application forms.
As part of the standard letter format, your address should be at the top right hand corner of the letter. It may also be necessary to include a relevant telephone number here.
This format for a job application cover letter is only one suggestion. It can be formatted as required according to the particular situation.
Job application letter hints and tips
There are several useful hints and tips about writing a job application cover letter. Most of them are very straightforward. However, one of the most useful ideas is to put yourself in the place of the person receiving the letter and asking whether it would be useful. For example receiving a job application or CV with no covering letter would imply the person did not really care, or know how to apply.
Similarly receiving a job application cover letter that is well thought out and well presented will enhance and prospects of getting an interview, and it may possibly be taken into consideration, formally or informally at the interview.
Some simple CV cover letter pointers, hints and tips are given below:
- Don't make the letter too long: The letter is meant to be eye catching, so don't re-iterate the CV. Keep the letter succinct, but use it to tell the company why you would be an asset to them.
- Avoid flowery language: Again the letter is meant to concise and to the point. Flowery language will seem out of place.
- Tailor the letter to the job and company: It is worth making sure the letter is not seen as a "round robin" sent out to many people and companies. If it is tailored to the company it will show professionalism.
- Check spelling: Don't rely on the spell checker. Read the letter over very carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. Even get someone else to check it through as they will see it with different eyes and may have some helpful suggestions.
- Email and snail mail: Even if a CV is sent in by email, a covering note in the email should contain many of the basics of a paper letter, but obviously within the general email format.
Use good quality paper: While not spending out specially for any paper, the letter should be produced on good quality office paper.
It obviously must never be lined even if submitting a handwritten letter. If writing a handwritten letter, special lined paper with bold markings can be applied under the paper for the letter itself. In this way the bold lines will show through the letter paper and enable the letter to be writing without the words being out of line or at an angle.
- Typed / computer generated not hand written: It is normally expected that unless a handwritten letter is specifically requested, the letter should be typed or more usually these days generated on a computer. The font chosen should normally be fairly formal in nature.
- Be respectful: Remember that you are asking for a job, so remember to be polite and respectful at all times. A well thought out letter that shows respect, but not grovelling will provide an indication of your character. Employers will generally not want people who are abrasive or difficult to work with.
Sample application letter format
When writing a traditional (paper) letter, it is still necessary to adopt the standard format used for letters. Although this can vary from time to time, a standard format for one is shown below.
The letter can be used for submissions using a paper application, but often there is also need for the same or similar words for an online job application as well.
This is a fairly standard letter layout. It can obviously be tailored to meet the individual situation, but generally this format is often used.
There are a couple of points or protocol that are worth noting:
Use of Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully or Best regards: It is normal that the ending "Yours sincerely" is used when the letter is addressed to a particular person by name, i.e. if the letter started with "Dear Mr Bloggs", then the ending would use "Yours sincerely". When using a generic addressee, i.e. "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam", then "Yours faithfully" should be used.
These days it is often more common to use "Best regards" This tends to be less forma and may fit well with the job application.
- Use of Mr and Esquire: The term Esquire is a rather old format, and is rarely used these days. In general use the "Mr Bloggs" format, but if the need ever arose to use Esquire, then never use both Mr and Esquire together: "Mr F Bloggs Esquire" should never be used.
Although life is less formal these days, addressing the letter in the correct way shows a professional attitude, and someone who is more likely to be able to handle themselves properly if they need to represent the company on business.
Comments about job applications letters
When companies are deluged with job applications, often it is the accompanying letter which can be used to sift the required applicants.
One comment that was received and shows the importance of the job application letter is:
Having once read 106 applications in one sitting, I can quite agree. A cover letter, to me, is far more important than a CV. It’s a candidate’s chance to pull together all the strands of their experience and make clear what they would bring to the company and the role, and why they’re interested.
Having a professional looking job application cover letter can greatly help in getting the accompanying CV or resume viewed by the right people. If the job application cover letter looks professional then those processing any job applications will be more likely to take it seriously.
Many companies receiving literally thousands or applications, and therefore the overall package of information received by them has to look good and it must stand out from the others. Having a properly composed and set out accompanying letter that looks professional is part of this.
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