Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

A good covering letter

Note

It is not uncommon for a candidate to be rejected on the basis of the covering letter alone.

Most interviewers will give a covering letter a cursory glance and little more. Nevertheless, it is important to spend time on the letter so it does not raise any ‘red flag’ concerns about you. A badly-written covering letter means your application form or curriculum vitae may not be looked at properly, as the selector has already judged you negatively. A good covering letter that is neat and easy to read makes the selector’s job easier and puts them in a more positive frame of mind when looking at your fuller details.

A good covering letter should ideally be

  • Neat and tidy
  • Typed, rather than hand written (unless the job application specifies hand written)
  • No more than one page long and ideally just two or three paragraphs
  • On paper of a reasonable quality (it might be worth investing in a pack of good quality paper that is suitable for your printer)
  • Spell checked before being sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent to check for remaining errors
  • Tailored to the position and organisation
  • Referenced to the position being applied for (for example, ‘Re: customer service advisor role’)
  • Reasonably formal in structure, with the organisation’s address, your contact address, the date of writing, a heading, a ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ opening (or an address to a named person, which is preferable if this information has been provided) and closure (for example, ‘Yours sincerely’)
  • Clear about any disability or special needs (such as a wheelchair accessible venue) that the interviewer would need to know about when organising a venue for the interviews

    A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

    Dale Carnegie
  • Addressed to the right person – check the spelling of the organisation’s name and the name of the person to whom you have been asked to address the letter.

This sort of preparation often gets noticed (although not always), but it’s more the case that poorly-written applications stand out and get instantly rejected rather than that well-written ones get positive attention.

Tip

If it is going to be awkward if the organisation telephones you at work, it is probably best not to include this telephone number in your application.