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Writing a Job Application Cover Letter

There are several scenarios where you may need to write a covering letter for your CV. This article will look at the different points at which to use each and cover the basics of writing job application covering letters.

Why should you include a covering letter with your CV?

Well, mainly because it looks more professional.

If a recruitment agency or an employer received anything in the post (a CV, promotional material, etc) without a brief covering letter explaining its purpose, they will instantly think less of it. Covering letters will also serve as a reference for your contact details.

Also, it is a further opportunity to market yourself (you have read the article, right?). You can put your skills and ambitions into a better context within your covering letter as it is more personal than your CV (which is basically just stripping the glossy stuff away to the essentials).

Look at it this way - you wouldn't send your CV by email attachment without writing anything on the actual email, would you?

When you should include a covering letter

When sending your CV to recruitment agencies (you have to let them know what kind of work you are looking for). When enquiring about possible job vacancies with an employer. When applying for advertised jobs that request you send your CV to the employer. Basic letter writing techniques apply to all of these scenarios, although each letter should be tailored every time (ideally, so should your CV).

Covering letters for recruitment agencies

When sending your CV to a recruitment agency, you should include a covering letter to let them know what kind of work you are looking for.

You are helping them out, so (hopefully) they will help you out in return. By carefully wording your desired career goals, you can save them the time of finding out that information from you (which they will have to do anyway in order to find you a job).

So, instead of, "So, what kind of work are you looking for?" when you meet them or speak with them, it will be, "I see that you are interested in xxxxx". From here it will either be, "We currently have a position available that may be of interest to you", or "We don't have anything along that line just now".

Either way you will know the score.

If they don't have the job you are looking for, then ask them what kind of jobs that they do have available (trust me - if they can get you in a job, then they will - that's how they make their money!).

When you originally contact an agency you should state your preference (if any) between permanent and temporary work and give an idea of what kind of job role you are looking for.

It should be noted at this point that if you state specific job titles, then you may be limiting your possibilities (after something else may come along that you would like, but not be offered because you didn't specify it). If you don't have the experience for a particular job then it may be worthwhile keeping your options open for possibilities that may lead to you ideal job.

For example, instead of saying you want break into web design, say you are IT literate and have an interest and particularly good range of web related skills. This way, you will be considered for work in many job roles (and I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting a broad range of experience is for many careers).

However, if you are experienced in your particular field, stating exactly what you want to do from the start will be ultimately be more beneficial, as you are less likely to be offered something that is inappropriate for you.

Enquiring about possible job vacancies

This is similar to sending your CV to recruitment agencies.

You are using the opportunity to market yourself directly to employers. Using this method has its advantages.

Chances are you will receive some feedback (at the very least they will keep your CV, but they may also direct you to their own recruitment process, eg their website). You are cutting out the middle man (if you happen to contact an employer that has a position that would suit you, then you are saving them cost of advertising and recruitment). Even if you don't get any response, you are still covering all the bases in the recruitment process (there is only so much you can do - you have to do everything you can to give yourself the best opportunity for success). When writing your covering letter to employers, be sure to direct it to the HR Manager or Office Manager. This way you know at least it is going to the relevant person (chances are that they won't read it, but it will be filed in the appropriate place for future reference and not be passed from department to department where it may be lost).

Again, similar to your letter to recruitment agencies, you should specify what type of role you want. If you don't know what you want to do, then use the letter to briefly elaborate on your skills and what you think you would be good at and ask if they have any suitable vacancies.

Also, when targeting employers, choose ones that you would want to work for. Decide upon your reasons for your choice and explain them in your letter, along with what you can offer.

Applying for advertised jobs

When applying for advertised jobs, your covering letters should, again, state why you are the best person for thejob, relating the information in the job description to your experience and skills.

You should make special note of what the requirements are in the job specification and reflect this in your CV.

Your covering letter, however, should be brief, professional and be directed to person stated on the job advert. At the end of the day, the employer is only going to look at CV's in this case.

General rules for writing your covering letter

Your covering letter should be a professional layout and you should refer to the contact as Sir or Madam if you do not know the name of the contact in the organization. Your covering letter should be no more than one page long (it's a covering letter not an essay - you don't want to bore the person who is about to red your CV!). It should be easy to read - use small paragraphs to break up the text. It should have all your contact details on it, along with the date it was sent out. It should not repeat what is said in your CV. Use the covering letter to elaborate on details that are only briefly covered in your CV. When elaborating on your skills, you should both reflect on your own experience and relate them to the skills asked for in the job advert. When closing the letter, finish with "Yours Sincerely" or "Kind Regards". I hope that this is enough for you to go on just now.

If you need any further information about writing job application covering letters or help on when to use a covering letter, then please feel free to post a message on our discussion forum.

Best of luck in the hunt for your ideal job!

By Scott Boyd

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