NOVEMBER 1999

How to write a good covering letter in English

The job market today is becoming more and more demanding. A good CV with good qualifications is no longer enough to impress an employer. The covering letter is a vital part of your application. Here, the employer can tell straight away from the presentation and style of writing whether the candidate will be suitable for the job. The covering letter is the perfect opportunity to make your application stand out from the many that employers receive on a daily basis.

Be original!

Nowadays, many books have been published on how to write a covering letter. Most of these books also include examples of covering letters with standard phrases to use. These books can be very useful and it is worth having a quick look at them if you are running out of ideas but make sure that you do not copy out word for word what is in these books. Just use them as an inspiration for what you are going to write. Employers are looking for originality. Therefore, try and invent your own sentences. Just don't forget to keep to the formal register!

How to present your letter?

Your address should be on the top right-hand side of the paper with the date underneath. The employers address should be written just below on the left-hand side. Before starting the letter, write in bold-type your reason for writing (for example re: application for a job as PR.) This makes it clear from the start why you are writing. The employer wants to know straight away if it is worth reading the letter or not.

How to start?

Address the person to whom you are writing in a formal way. Try to find out the name of the person in charge of job applications in the company (the best thing to do is to phone and ask). It shows that you have made an effort and are interested in the company. If you do not know, then always start with: "Dear Sir or Madam,"

What to write ?

In your letter, you should start by stating how you found out about the job offer (newspaper, job centre etc). You should then introduce yourself and emphasise the strong points that you think are worth mentioning and that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Finally, you have got to explain the reasons why you want the job and why you think that you are the suitable person. These last two points are probably the hardest to present but unfortunately this is the most vital part of your letter. English employers are more concerned about what you could contribute to the company.

How to conclude?

After having written how wonderful you are, you should finish the letter by mentioning what is enclosed in the letter ( I enclose my CV etc). A good way to end your letter is to say that you are willing to provide the employer with any information he/she might require. Always end the letter with a formal conclusion such as "Yours faithfully".

Finally, one last tip, always make a copy of your CV and covering letter. Indeed, if you are invited for an interview, your employer might refer to some of the points that you mentioned about yourself. It is always helpful to remember what you wrote!