Home > Careers, Employment > Your cover letter – headlining cover story or forgotten footnote?

Your cover letter – headlining cover story or forgotten footnote?

“To apply for this job send your CV to …” is a familiar line on many job ads and you’d be forgiven for thinking that to apply you only need to polish your CV and send it off with a one line email. However your CV is, in fact, a two part document and the second part, your cover letter, will almost always be expected even if this isn’t specified in the advertisement.  As cover letters aren’t always mentioned in job ads applicants often overlook their importance, however your cover letter needs to be given the same amount of care and attention as your CV.

So what is a cover letter?

A cover letter is where you tell the recruiter what you’re applying for, explain what it is about the content of your CV that should interest them and highlight how you meet the job requirements. It’s also an opportunity to tell the employer why you want to do the job you’re applying for and why you want to work for their organisation.  If you think of your CV and cover letter as two halves of one application this can help you work out what information to include where.  As a general rule you should keep your CV brief and factual and save the explanations and analysis for your cover letter.  For more information on how to structure and write your cover letter see our cover letter guide.

If a job ad just tells me to send my CV, should I include a cover letter too?

Yes, it’s almost always expected that you should send a cover letter (unless explicitly told not to).

What’s the difference between a cover letter and a cover email?

Not much!  If you’re emailing your CV to an employer then you can either attach your cover letter as a PDF or Word document or you can submit the contents in your email.  Always follow instructions – if the employer has asked you to email a CV and cover letter then it’s safer to send your letter as an additional attachment rather than write a cover email.  On the other hand, if you’re emailing an employer speculatively to ask for a job or work experience it might make more sense to write a cover email as there’s more chance that the recipient (who hasn’t asked for your application) will actually read it.  When sending your CV and cover letter as attachments you only need to write a very short email – a couple of lines stating which job you’re applying for and telling the reader that your CV and cover letter are attached.

Can I use a standard cover letter?

It’s never a good idea to use a standard cover letter.  Your letter needs to be rewritten for each job application and employers will be able to tell if you’re using a generic cover letter (particularly if you’re applying for more than one job at the same company).  Of course, if you’re applying for similar roles, you can cut and paste from one letter to another although be careful to change any employer or job-specific information.

 Are there any times when I’d just need a CV?

Sometimes you won’t need a cover letter – usually when you’re handing your CV to employers in person.  This could be when you’re attending events such as recruitment fairs or degree shows or if you’re calling into local businesses or recruitment agencies looking for part-time or full-time work.

 Want to know more about how to write a winning cover letter? Check out our resources on Careerhub and sign up for our webinar Cover Letters Demystified on Friday 7 August at 12.00.

Suzanne Ball is Careers Adviser for the Schools of Creative Arts and Health & Social Work at the University of Hertfordshire. She regularly tweets about all things creative via @careerview.

  1. 04/08/2015 at 23:49

    Reblogged this on fredeflux's Blog.

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