How to write a covering letter

Last week, for PPD we had a session on how to write a covering letter.

A covering letter what what the companies will read before your CV. It’s to explain the purpose of your writing to them. If you’re contacting them via email, the covering letter is preferably in the email and not an attachment sent along with a blank email. (Yes, people do actually do that.)

In the covering letter, you will introduce yourself, your interest in the company, and what you’re looking for (placement/portfolio viewing and advice/freelance work/job).

There are basically three paragraphs: 1. telling who you are and what you do, 2. telling what you can do for them, and 3. what you want.

In the first paragraph, don’t forget to give your unique selling points.

In the second paragraph, you should show your knowledge and interest in the company. Talk about recent campaigns they’ve done, recent TV commercials, etc. Be open and honest. And don’t talk about every single thing you can find on their website. Pick a couple of things that you’re really interested in. This will be a good chance to give examples of why you think you’d be perfect for the job.

At the end of the email/letter, you need to seek to gain a response. Invite them to contact you back, tell them when you’ll be available to work, when it is best to contact you, and mention the CV you have attached with the email.

Here are some tips for when you write:

  • Get to the point
  • Be original
  • Cut out unnecessary or generic things
  • Use active voice
  • Be quick and simple
  • Check spelling
  • Find out who you are writing to and their title

The tone of voice has to be more professional than a regular email you’d send to your friends. But it doesn’t have to be too formal.

After you’ve sent in your covering letter and CV, make sure you follow up on it. Make sure they get it and respond.

Here’s an example of a covering letter:

Covering letter example 1

The person begins the letter by mentioning to a placement that the company has advertised and at the same time introduces how he/she can offer to the company. In the same paragraph, they introduce what they do and their attributes. They also mention their education background and work experience (which will probably be further explained in their CV). However, I notice that they didn’t include their name.

In the second paragraph, they continue to speak about their personal attributes but this time they apply those attributes to how they’re going to help/offer the company. Notice they mention a type of work from the company that they like and they use that to say how they’d fit in because it is of their interest.

In the third paragraph, they mention again their education background and explain their time schedule. They also summarize the whole letter in that paragraph.

Then they mention the attached CV and invite the company to contact them back.

However, they end the letter with “Yours faithfully” which should be used when you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to. In this case, they do, so it should have been “Yours sincerely” instead.

Personally, I think it is pretty well written and sounds enthusiastic, but it is way too long. I don’t think the companies will have enough time and patience to sit through the whole letter. I think they can still cut the words down a bit more.

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2 comments

  1. International Forum · November 12, 2010

    Well, this article that has been long I was looking for. Many thanks for share this here. I like it very much.

  2. Cato Gustavson · November 17, 2010

    I will bookmark this post for future job-hunting galore, there are some good pointers here that I haven’t implemented in my cover letter at all. Thank you!

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