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.
Top 10 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.
- Tailor the covering letter to the job and to the employer.
- Focus on what you could do for the employer, rather than what the employer could do for you.
- Make it clear you’ve done your research and understand the role and employer. Identify any pilots, initiatives, awards, etc. that are relevant.
- Echo the employer’s organisational values, vision or mission statement where applicable.
- Never submit a stand-alone CV without a covering letter
- Try not to exceed a side of A4. (Ideally your covering letter should be between one half and three quarters of A4.)
- Try and avoid unnecessary duplication of information already contained within your CV. (Instead, highlight the most important or relevant elements.)
- Try not to make statements or claims that aren’t backed up with evidence or context.
- Avoid making points that are bland or obvious. (e.g. “I always follow the NMC code and aim to deliver the highest standards of care.”)
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.
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.
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.
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.