If you are uploading a CV as part of an application form, you don’t usually need to upload a covering letter as well. For all other situations, you should never leave a covering letter out when sending your CV. Do don’t simply say ‘Please find a copy of my CV attached for your consideration’, you would be missing an opportunity. The rule is that even if not specified, if a job vacancy requests a CV they will want a cover letter as well. This is your chance to promote your skills and demonstrate your motivation and enthusiasm for both the job and the employer. You need to make sure that your cover letter is no more than one side of A4 and it is addressed to a named contact, with the correct gender title (Miss, Ms, Mrs, Mr etc.), people can be offended if they are incorrectly addressed and you don’t want to lose out before you’ve even started. If you don’t know, call them up and ask the reception staff to whom it should be addressed.
Next break down the information you need to include into sections. The first, opening section should explain which job you are applying for, where you saw the advert and why you are applying. If the job has a reference number, it is always good to add this at the top of the letter, before you start. This opening paragraph is your chance to make sure that the recruiter knows that it is their job that you are interested in and that you’re not mass mailing standard CVs and cover letters to the entire telephone book.
The next couple of paragraphs should be about you and show how your skills and abilities match both the job requirements and the companies ethos – include both your work and life experience. At this early stage of launching your career it is perfectly permissible to reference work experience that isn’t directly related to real estate, but it is important to show how the skills you have acquired would transfer to the job you have applied for. Similarly just stating you have good communication, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership skills is not acceptable. You need to show the employer how you have obtained them. Make sure you are not just cutting and pasting statements already made on your CV, you need to look at rephrasing and expanding information on your skills and experiences. It is not good enough to simply say “I have a real interest in working as a ….”, you must say why you have decided to pursue this career and how your interest was developed. If you don’t live where the job is based this is also the point to say that you would be willing to relocate.
The closing paragraph needs to reiterate how suitable you are for the job and how enthusiastic you are about the prospect of working for the employer. State that you look forward to hearing from them and are happy to provide any further information they need. Don’t forget to sign the letter if you are sending it through the post, although just your printed name will do if you are sending it by e-mail. Obviously if you have managed to get the name of the person you are writing to your letter should end – Yours sincerely. If you haven’t then Dear Sir/Madam letters are signed off with Yours faithfully.
There are a couple more checklists if your cover letter is being sent by email. Firstly check the job advert carefully to see if you have been given any specific instructions, otherwise attach both your CV and the covering letter to your email. Make the email a brief message saying that your application for the vacancy (give details of the job and the place you saw it listed) is attached. Include your contact details and your studentsurveyor profile (e.g. studentsurveyor/billsmith) as a signature at the end.
• Use sensible file names for your attachment e.g. Bill Smith CV and include the job reference in the subject.
• Use a sensible email address. Get a new one if the one you have isn’t suitable or use your university one if you can guarantee access to it for the time period leading up to the jobs commencement.
• Don’t use coloured paper, plain white photocopy paper is fine.
• Don’t waffle.
• Match your skills and experience to the job requirements
• Avoid clichés.
• Express yourself clearly, if the employer has to work at reading your letter they just won’t bother.
• Err on the side of formality and avoid any humour – a sense of what is funny can vary widely and job applications are a serious business.
• Read your covering letter out loud. This will help you check the sense of your writing.
• Check it for spelling and grammar.
Recruiters are checking for attention to detail and ability to communicate in writing, so your covering letter is your first chance to impress. Get your careers office, a lecturer or someone you trust to double check it before you send it out.