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Covering Letter – Most Common Mistakes

Most candidates do express difficulty when faced with having to write an effective covering letter. The covering letter is the toughest letter that you will have to write because there is the question of the right style, format and how to empower the employer. It is obvious that a good covering letter can help you to clinch the job, so why do so many candidates not write effective ones?


There is a lot of mystery surrounding the covering letter. The most common question I get asked is ‘Do I need a covering letter if I am applying on-line?’ If you send in a CV or upload a CV without a covering letter you run the risk of your application been over-looked. Employers may conclude that you are unreliable because you:


Can’t complete a task

Can’t present yourself properly (so how could you then represent the company?)

Can’t express yourself in writing

Can’t write letters.


A covering letter is an absolute necessity. Without it, the application is incomplete. A CV is not a stand-alone document; it needs a covering letter to confirm and draw out the relevant detail of the CV. The purpose of the covering letter is to:


  • Introduce yourself to your prospective employer
  • Advise that your CV is attached
  • Sell your strengths
  • Show your value
  • Confirm your enthusiasm
  • Explain your background and level of expertise
  • Supply any additional information that is requested in the advertisement
  • Cover any concerns that the employer might have about you such as your age, experience, level of expertise, health or family circumstances
  • Ask for an interview.


The thing to bear in mind is that there are many different types of covering letters. Each type of letter has a different tone, approach and message. What are the different types of covering letters?


The covering letter in response to an advertisement


This is perhaps the easiest letter of all to write. The advertisement will give you an indication of the type and amount of information that is required. This letter has a standard format and style. You will need to consider how you are going to include things like why you consider that you are the best person for the job, why you are enthusiastic about the position, why your expertise will be of benefit to the employer and how to cover rather than hide any disadvantages that you may have as a candidate.


The cold/speculative covering letter


Your job target or the job market you are working within may mean that you have to introduce yourself to companies in the form of a speculative letter as there are not too many jobs advertised. If you can write a good business letter and fulfil the company’s needs, you are likely to receive a positive response from employers.


It is advisable to try several different approaches to discover what is the best approach for you. You will need to be selective in your approach, to deliver a good opening, which focuses on the employer rather than on you and to explain and sell your experience.


The friendship covering letter


A friendship covering letter is perhaps the hardest of all of the covering letters to write. Friendships are won and lost on poor letter-writing so make sure you get it right. Friends include not just your closest and dearest pals but anyone who knows your name – in fact anyone who can help you in your job search. Don’t rule anyone out prematurely, because they may be able to help you. At this stage it doesn’t matter where your friends live, because your friend’s friend may live near you.


Make sure you rebuild old times, explain your situation, tell them how they could help you out, ask for advice and ideas and end on a friendly note.


Things to avoid


Most covering letters fail because they don’t empower the employer. In others words, the candidates focuses too much on their needs and not on the employer’s needs. So the covering letter doesn’t add anything to the application and sometimes it can even destroy the message of the CV itself.  This could be because the letter is:


X – A ‘weak’ letter, which states only that the CV is enclosed rather than reconfirming your areas of expertise. This type of letter gives the power back to the employer: the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to your application. Unfortunately most covering letters fall into this category.


X – An ‘arrogant’ letter, which will put off employers. Perhaps it implies or states why the employer should take on the applicant, or explains how the company should run its business. Try to avoid this approach, as it normally gives the employer a negative image of you.


X – A ‘humorous’ letter, which will normally misfire. The joke will almost certainly be on you. Save your sense of humour for the times when you are face to face with the recipient. You can then judge the response and modify your approach accordingly.


X – A ‘creative’ letter, which has its place in the PR, advertising and marketing fields. Here almost anything goes and a letter of this kind will be appreciated, rather than going over the top of the employer’s head. If this is not your line of work but you want to be creative, you can be subtly different by choosing a different ending to ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’. You could try ‘With confidence’, ‘With great interest’, ‘Your friend’ ‘With warm thanks’ and so on.


X – An ‘old-fashioned’ letter, which puts the reader off. So many candidates change personality in their covering letter. They use terms which were probably used over fifty years ago, including ‘in the furtherance of’, ‘for your perusal’ and ‘prior to migrating my career’. Only use words in your covering letter that you would use when you talk to the employer.


You will increase your chances of success if you write a really good covering letter, so it is worth spending some time getting it right. If you would like advice on your CV and covering letter, please CLICK HERE for further information.


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Choosing your CVs Fixation Points

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