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Covering letters

Did you know many employers admit they won't consider CVs if they are not accompanied by a covering letter?

Don't risk being overlooked; follow our advice and tips to make sure your covering letter ticks all the right boxes and encourages the recruiter to shortlist you.

Covering letters - the basics

If you're responding to a job advert that simply asks you to submit your CV,  or are sending out a speculative CV, then you will definitely need a covering letter. 

A covering letter introduces you as a candidate and acts as an opportunity for you to highlight your key skills, strengths and attributes, convincing the reader that you're a good match for the job.

Unlike your CV, which is a relatively factual document, you can write more personably in a covering letter, allowing for your personality, interest, enthusiasm and passion to shine through. 

It’s important to tailor your covering letter to the job you’re going for, using the job advert, person specification, job description and company values to guide you.

CV Writing

How to write your CV, including suggested layout and CV example. 

CV writing for student & newly qualified nurses

CV writing for student and NQs 

Top Tips 


  • Try to arrange an informal visit or informal chat to find out more about the role before you apply. Reference this in your covering letter.
  • Take time to carefully tailor your covering letter to your target job and employer.
  • Explain your reasons or genuine motivation for applying. 
  • Back up any claims with evidence or context. (E.g. "I have good organisational skills, efficiently managing my own caseload and appointments on a daily basis")
  • Make it clear you’ve done your research and understand the role, field, employer, etc.
  • Echo the employer’s organisational values, vision or mission statement where possible.


  • Submit a stand-alone CV without a covering letter 
  • Write more than a page of A4 if possible.
  • Duplicate all information contained within your CV. Instead, highlight the most important or relevant elements.
  • Be vague. (E.g. Instead of saying "I've worked in a wide range of settings," say, "I've worked in a wide range of settings including oncology, community, and urgent care.")
  • Focus on how the job would benefit you. Instead, focus on how you could benefit the employer.

Structuring your covering letter

There’s no set format for a covering letter, but you may wish to use the structure below as a guide.


Explain which job you’re applying for, and where you saw the advert.

Section 1  

Introduce yourself and tell your prospective employer a bit about you. 

You could give a very brief overview of your career and current role and/or share your story about why you became a HCA / nurse, or why you decided on the job role you did. 

Alternatively, if you’re changing your career path, explain why. 

Section 2 

Demonstrate why you are a good match for the job.

Study the job advert and person specification if there is one, and identify approximately 3 of the most important criteria needed for the role. Demonstrate how you meet these criteria using evidence and examples, and focusing on your achievements.

Don’t list everything already contained in your CV; be selective, and highlight the elements of your CV that are the most relevant or the most important. Use the information within the job advert to guide you.

You may want to point out how your experience / knowledge / current job is well aligned, or would be advantageous to this job. If you can’t do this because you’re making a career jump, convey an understanding of the new role, any preparation you've done, and/or your willingness/desire to progress in this area.

Section 3 

Demonstrate your knowledge of the company / field / job / sector and why you want to work for them. Explain what you would bring to the team/department, and/or why you’d fit in with their industry, culture or values.


Thank them for taking the time to read your letter and CV. Let them know your availability for a call back.

Need feedback on your covering letter?

If you're an RCN member and you need to write a covering letter to apply for a job, you can e-mail us at to receive feedback via email within 10 working days. Please include: 

  • Your RCN membership number and postcode (or date of birth and postcode)
  • The job advert and/or Person Specification for the job you're applying for
  • Whether you have any deadlines or time pressures (we will do our best to comply)
  • A copy of your CV if you want this checked too.