Tips for Covering Letters, Part 1

So you need to write a covering letter but have never had to do one before and have no idea where to start. Well take a look at our advice to help you write the type of covering letter that will make an employer really want to interview you!


Where do I start?

Covering letters are generally no more than one page long, and even then, employers do not want to see a ‘maxed out’ page with narrow margins and a tiny font size.

So, while you need to get as many of your skills and competencies across as you can, you also need to do it in a way that isn’t over-wordy, rambling or vague.

One of the biggest problems students encounter when writing covering letters is how to express their desire to work for a particular company and in a particular position.

Many students have a tendency to either:

  • Give generic reasons as to why they want a career in, say, finance, without tailoring it to the specific company they’re applying to
  • Simply regurgitate material about the company they’re applying to (e.g. ‘Morgan Stanley is a world leader in the finance sector’) without stating why they want to work for them

The first mistake demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the company. There are plenty of ways of finding this information. You can check the company’s website (the ‘News’ or ‘About Us’ or ‘Company Ethos’ sections are particularly useful here), but you can also find news articles about the company elsewhere on the web (so long as they’re not negative!) to see what they’ve been up to recently.

To avoid the second mistake you need to think about why you want to work for this company. Be honest with yourself. Jot down some reasons. Read them through and ask yourself, if you replaced that company’s name with another company’s name, would it still make sense? If it would, you need to be more specific.

Try to relate your desire to work for a particular company (and why you’re the right candidate for that particular position) with specific, relevant information about them. For example: ‘As a representative of Queen Mary’s environmental society, Morgan Stanley’s commitment to sustainable investment particularly appeals to me’.

In the next part of this blog, I’m going to look at how you can make the most of your skills in a cover letter, and also relate them specifically to what’s been asked for in the job profile.

Of course, if you’re unsure about your covering letter, or any other aspect of a job or placement application, feel free to book an appointment with the Careers & Enterprise Centre. We’d be more than happy to help!


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