Where possible your CV should always be accompanied by a covering letter. Use it to put your CV in context with the position or organisation, outlining why you are applying for the position and how you relate to the firms values, ethos and aspirations.
A covering letter should:
- Demonstrate to the employer your interest in and knowledge of the company.
- Highlight particular parts of your CV that are your unique selling points.
- Give additional information that does not fit easily into a CV.
- Explain any personal circumstances or anomalies in your application.
- A well-written covering letter is essential for speculative applications.
- Address your letter to a named person, even if this means you have to phone the company to ask for the name of the person who deals with recruitment. This will ensure that it reaches the right person. It also gives you a contact name for a follow-up call or email.
- Think from the employer’s perspective rather than your own. Tell them what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you. Do not send them a standard letter with only the key details changed.
- Your covering letter should be no more than one page long and with short and clearly themed paragraphs. Aim for no more than four paragraphs as a rule.
- Use the following format as a guide for your letter.
- Briefly introduce yourself, state the post you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative letter, specify the type of work you are looking for.
- Explain why you are interested in this type of work and show an understanding of what it is likely to involve.
- Explain why you are interested in working for this particular employer. Demonstrate enthusiasm and evidence of research into such aspects as their successes, involvements, values or clients.
- Highlight what makes you suitable for this position. Provide evidence of your key strengths by referring to experience listed on your CV. Aim to show that your key strengths reflect their requirements.
- Take the opportunity, if necessary, to explain any anomalies in your background, such as time gaps or ways in which you do not match the selection criteria. Perhaps explain how any hurdles you have encountered have helped you develop in a positive way.
- If the role and organisation are creative, you should reflect this in your writing style. If the organisation is formal, you are more likely to be successful if you write a formal covering letter.
- Ensure there are no errors and spelling mistakes and that you have written the addressee’s name correctly.
- Respectfully request an interview or an opportunity for an informal discussion.
- The letter should be typed, but a nice touch in formal letters is to use a fountain pen to hand write ‘Dear ...’ (with the recruiter’s name) and to sign ‘Yours sincerely’.
Disclosure of a disability
If you have a disability, you may feel that it does not affect your ability to do the job, but that the employer may not view you objectively if the disability is declared. Disclosure before interview is not a legal requirement, so you can make your own decision on this, but remember that there is a good chance that disclosure could highlight your personal skills and qualities to the employer.
Disclosure also improves your access to equal opportunities and training schemes in place under current legislation. There may be a health and safety implication, e.g. a requirement for workplace adaptations, which the employer needs to know from the outset. Also, funding is available to help employers make necessary changes.
Failure to disclose a disability on an application form when you are specifically asked, or on a medical form, could give rise to dismissal later on.
You may choose to disclose a disability in your covering letter. Remember to be positive and highlight the skills you have gained as a result of your disability. If there are matters likely to be of concern to an employer, you may wish to deflect them by suggesting to solutions, or giving examples of how you have successfully dealt with these challenges in the past.