CILT(UK) > Careers > Managing your Career > Resources > Application & covering letters

Application Forms and Cover Letters

Covering Letters

Having a good covering letter will significantly increase your chances of getting an interview. You may have the best CV, but if it's hidden by a poorly-targeted and/or a poorly worded covering letter the prospect of it being read are minimal. 

Hints and Tips

  • Remember to keep it brief and all on one page! 

  • It is vital that you customise your covering letter. Recruiters may have hundreds of applications to sift through, so make sure yours 'shouts out' at them that you have the skill and ability to do the job.

  • Your covering letter is an opportunity to tell them who you are and why you are suited to the position. 

  • If the job advert includes a telephone number, take the opportunity to call and find out more. This will enable you to get a better idea of what they are looking for, while giving you the opportunity to personalise your covering letter by referring to the telephone conversation. 

Your letter should ideally consist of three paragraphs: 

First paragraph:

state the reason for your application. For example, which job you are applying for (including the job title), where you saw it advertised and the date. With a speculative letter, you need to explain how you found out about them, for example, a recent article you may have read about them or their web site. 

Second paragraph:

is the opportunity to sell yourself by linking your strengths and skills to the job. Concentrate on mirroring the requirements of the job.  For example, if they say they are looking for someone with good researching skills, write an example of research experience you may have picked up in your career.

Third paragraph:

you should request an interview or meeting. You may want to tell them you will call them next week to discuss it further. Alternatively, you could say that you would welcome the opportunity to discuss how you might be of value to the recruiting company. 

  • As with your CV, never lie or exaggerate. The last thing you want is to spend your whole interview trying to dig your way out of a hole you've created by being liberal with the truth! 

  • Your covering letter should reflect you as a person, so be yourself. If you are not flamboyant don't write a letter as if you are and vice versa! After all, you don't want to write a letter that you can't live up to. If you’re trying to be someone else on paper is this really the right job for you? 

  • If the advert asks for an indication of your current salary then provide it in the letter as a range, ie. £25-£30K.  This covers the request and allows both parties some flexibility and room for negotiation! 

  • Address your letter to a specific, named individual and sign it 'Yours sincerely'. Personalising your cover letter goes a long way. ('Yours faithfully' is the correct form if you have to use a generic form of address, like Dear Sir or Madam.) 

  • Present your letter in typed format, preferably on white A4 paper. If this is not possible, hand-write neatly. 

Application Forms

Why are they used? Because it puts the recruiter in complete control of the information they will receive from applicants. This in turn makes the screening process more manageable and fair, because it allows them to make direct comparisons between your responses and everyone else's. 

Hints and Tips 

  • Never simply substitute an application form with your CV. It is usually acceptable to include your CV when you return the form, unless specifically asked not to.   
  • Never respond to a question on the application form with the phrase 'see attached CV'. 

  • Always read the whole form carefully before filling it in and make a photocopy of the blank form to have a dry run at completing it. When complete, ensure you ask someone else to check through what you have written. 

  • A good exercise is to jot down your initial thoughts on a rough page. Don't be caught out by starting to write your response and realising halfway through that you could have phrased it in a better way.

  • Worse still, you could make a mistake that you can't amend. 

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the form. A quiet environment with no interruptions is perfect. 

  • Never leave blanks. Always make sure you respond in some way, even if it is with a dash or 'not applicable'. 

  • Again, and only if asked, it is far better to indicate a salary range rather than exact details. 

  • Honesty is your best policy. As with covering letters and CVs, the golden rule still applies. Never lie or exaggerate. You will be found out and this will do your relationship with a prospective employer no good at all. 

  • Use black ink to carefully copy across from your practice form to the original. 

  • Always take a photocopy of the completed form. That way you will be able to refer to what you wrote if you are invited to interview. 

  • Send the original with a covering letter. 

  • Regard 'other information' sections as an opportunity to sell yourself by emphasising your achievements, skills and strengths. Think about instances when you have demonstrated the requirements specified in the job advertisement. What specifically did you do? What was the result? 

Good luck with any future applications!



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