Cover Letter Newcastle University

What to Include

Your CV should always be accompanied by a covering letter, unless the employer tells you otherwise. It is a key part of your application. Your letter should demonstrate your suitability for the vacancy and highlight the most important parts of your CV.

Watch the Careers Service's online masterclass presentation ‘How to write an effective covering letter’.

To view the presentation with subtitles, click the CC button in the player below. You can also view a full screen version.

Format

Ideally your letter should only be one side of A4. It should be typed unless a handwritten letter is specifically requested and you should use the same font style and size used in your CV.

Beginning and ending

Make sure that you write to the correct person – it's important to get their name and job title right. If a name is not given, try to find out who you should address your letter to by contacting the company or checking the website.

When addressing your letter, use title and last name only. If you can't find out the name of the person, use 'Dear Sir/Madam'.

Finish your letter in a polite and friendly way, saying when you would be available for interview. End on apositive note, eg 'I would welcome the opportunity to discuss at interview what I could bring to this role.'

To end your letter, write 'Yours sincerely' if you know the name of the person you're writing to, or 'Yours faithfully' if you don't know the name, followed by your signature.

Sign a posted letter by hand. If you're sending it electronically, try scanning your signature.

Introduction

Briefly explain what you are doing now and why you are writing.

If the job or placement was advertised, include where and when you saw the advert. If you are applying speculatively, be as specific as you can about what you are looking for.

A strong, confident and positive opening statement makes a good first impression, eg 'I believe I have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to make a real difference in this role and in your organisation.'

Summarise what you have to offer

Summarise the key selling points from your CV which demonstrate that you have what they are looking for. This should be a concise summary withspecific examples, rather than talking about generic skills and qualities in isolation. For example, 'I am a reliable and trustworthy person with good communication skills' doesn't demonstrate to the employer how you developed your skills.

Convey your enthusiasm for the job and what you can do for the company, rather than talking about yourself in a general way.

Give reasons why the organisation should consider you. What have you got to offer them? Talk about any relevant experience, knowledge and skills and how you could make a contribution.

Try not to repeat phrases from your CV. Make sure that your CV clearly provides evidence for statements that you make in the letter.

Target the employer

Each letter should be tailored to the particular organisation and role. Recruiters will not be impressed with a generic covering letter.

Explain why you want to work for this organisation, eg their ethos, product, location, or contact you have had with people who work there.

You should also show that you have researched the organisation and know what they do, but don't just repeat what is on their website.

Other relevant information

It may be relevant to include other information in your covering letter, eg sharing information about a disability or explaining the circumstances of disappointing academic grades. Come and talk to us if you have concerns about explaining these or other issues in your letter.

For advice on sharing information about a disability with an employer, see:

Speculative Letters

A speculative letter will contain the same information as one for an advertised post with some additions. Read on to find out what you should include.

Contact name

Try to identify a contact name to address your letter to. Contact the company to ask who is responsible for recruitment, or for a key contact in the department or section you wish to work in.

Information to include

You should be as specific as you can about the type of work you’re looking for. Consider giving the employer a range of options, so if no vacancies are available you can possibly get involved another way.

You could ask about:

  • permanent vacancies
  • temporary or part-time work
  • work experience/shadowing
  • arranging a brief meeting or the opportunity to talk to a recent graduate

Follow up with a phone call

It’s useful to follow up a speculative application with a phone call a few days later to show you are proactive and motivated.

Further information

For more advice on speculative letters, see The Guardian Careers article 'Do speculative cover letters work?'.

Example Letters

We've created some examples of different types of covering letters to help you think about content, layout and how to demonstrate your skills.

We've written some example covering letters for graduate and part-time jobs:


The following links include advice about writing effective covering letters, with examples:

More Help

The Careers Service provides advice and resources to help you create your covering letter. There are also a range of useful websites that provide futher advice.

Drop-in sessions

The Careers Service can provide feedback on covering letters at our drop-in sessions.

‘How to write your covering letter' workshop

Attend our careers workshop, ‘How to write your covering letter’. For dates and times, see our Events section.

CVs and Covering Letters workbook

For more advice on writing CVs and covering letters, see our CVs and Covering Letters workbook.

You can also pick up a free copy of the workbook at the Careers Service.

Tips for writing effective covering letters

The following links give useful advice on writing an effective covering letter:

CVs

Writing

The purpose of a CV is to tell a recruiter all about you, your skills and experience – and hopefully persuade them to invite you to interview. It’s often the first opportunity you have to make an impression. Read on for our tips on writing a good CV.

Five key principles

There's no right or wrong way to write a CV, but always remember to tailor it to the role you're applying for. If you apply the principles below, you will be able to write a CV for any purpose.

1. Relevance

Find out what the role involves and show how your knowledge, experience and skills are relevant.

2. Order

Put your most relevant information first and give it the most space. Based on what you know about the job, decide what is most relevant. For example, your degree, work experience or voluntary work.

3. Format

Aim for a professional-looking CV. This means it should:

  • be consistent in layout
  • have a good balance of text and space
  • have careful use of italics, bold and underlining
  • be printed on good quality paper (if posting)

4. Attention to detail

Spelling and grammar must be correct. Check it over carefully. If you're unsure, get someone to help you.

5. Letter

Always include a covering letter, unless you are asked not to. It introduces you and lets you highlight the important parts of your CV and your reasons for applying.

Watch the Careers Service's online Masterclass presentation 'How to Prepare for Assessment Centres'.  

To view the presentation with subtitles, click the CC button in the player below. You can also view a full screen version. 

Use the job description and/or person specification to identify the skills and experience the recruiter is looking for. Make sure you provide evidence of these using specific examples. These could come from a range of contexts such as:

  • your studies
  • work experience
  • part-time jobs
  • extra-curricular activities

If you’re sending a CV speculatively (ie not in response to an advertised position), you may not have a job description to help you. Find out as much as possible about the field of work, the company and the type of role you are interested in. You’ll also need to know which skills are required. To help with this, look at the occupational profiles on the Prospects website.

The following links provide further advice on the skills employers look for, and how to demonstrate them:

For advice on developing graduate skills, contact the Careers Service.

Structuring

There are various formats you can use to structure your CV. We've summarised some typical CV formats to help you decide on the content and layout that will work best for you.

A CV in the UK is usually no more than two pages, though if you’re applying for academic positions, eg postdoctoral roles, your CV can be longer.

Different countries have different CV formats – make sure you find out what is required when applying for a job overseas.

CV formats

Chronological/traditional

This type of CV lists your education and experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent and working backwards. This is the most common style of CV and is generally preferred by employers.

This format is particularly useful if your qualifications and/or experience are related to the role, but may not be so effective if your background is less relevant.

Skills-based

This format focuses on the skills required by the employer, more than on your education and work history. You need to have a very clear understanding of what the employer is looking for and be able to provide evidence through examples.

This is a useful style if, for example, you are changing career path and want to highlight transferable skills from non-relevant qualifications and experience.

Combination

It may be that a combination of chronological and skills-based styles is appropriate. You may have very relevant qualifications that favour a chronological format and varied work experience that benefits from a skills-based approach.

Academic

Use this style to apply for academic jobs such as a postdoctoral position or lectureship. It tends to be built around three areas:

  • your research
  • teaching
  • administrative experience

It can also include conferences attended and publications. Length is less important and it may be longer than two pages. For advice and examples of CVs for postgraduate study and academia, see our advice on CVs for specific sectors.

Further information

See examples of different CV formats.

TARGETjobs has additional advice on different types of CVs for graduate jobs.

Examples

We have produced some examples of different types of CVs to help you think about content, layout and how to demonstrate your skills.

More example CVs 

Examples of CVs for internships and graduate jobs in various sectors can be found on TARGETjobs. See their example CVs and job hunting tools.

 

 

Other Countries

Different countries have different CV formats. It's important to find out what's required for the country you're interested in. Here we've shared links to information about writing CVs for jobs in some different countries.

You can find advice on CVs/résumés and covering letters for a wide range of countries at GoinGlobal. For useful phrases for CVs and covering letters in 14 different languages, visit bab.la.

Europe

Find tips on writing a CVs and covering letter for France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Search by country for information on how to present your CV on Eurograduate.com's Are you ready to work in Europe?

Asia

For information on what to include in your CV/résumé for certain countries in Asia, see the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) country guides:

USA and Canada

For information on application methods and what to include in your CV/résumé, check the AGCAS country guides for the USA (PDF: 604KB) and Canada (PDF: 561KB)

For articles and advice on writing résumés (including examples) visit the US site Job Choices Online: build the résumé employers want.

For an overview of US résumés and CVs with examples for different sectors, see Columbia University Center for Career Education's information about résumés and CVs.

Also visit iAgora.com for advice on how to present a résumé for employers in the US.

Australia and New Zealand

For information on application methods in Australia and what to include in your résumé, see the AGCAS Australia country guide (PDF: 562KB).

For advice and information on how to structure your résumé and what to include, visit Monash University's how to write a résumé.

The following links contain further information about job applications in Australia and New Zealand:

More Help

The Careers Service provides advice and resources to help you create your CV. There are also a range of useful websites that provide further advice.

Drop-in sessions

The Careers Service can provide feedback on CVs at our drop-in sessions.

‘How to write your CV' workshop

Attend our careers workshop, ‘How to write your CV’. For dates and times, see our Events section.

CVs and Covering Letters workbook

For more advice on writing CVs and covering letters, see our CVs and Covering Letters workbook below.

You can also pick up a free copy of the workbook at the Careers Service.

External resources

There are regular CV Clinics with advice from professionals (often recruiters) at Guardian Careers: CV.

The following links provide further information about CVs:

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