Careers Service

Covering Letters

Covering Letters

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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 motivation for applying and suitability for the vacancy and highlight the most important parts of your CV. 

Ideally your letter should only be one side of A4 and you should use the same font style and size used in your CV.

Watch the Careers Service's online masterclass presentation ‘How to write an effective covering letter’ (12:42)

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

We also run regular workshops on writing covering letters during the academic year – see Events for dates and times.

What to include in your covering letter

We'd suggest the following structure for your covering letter. The order for the second (why you) and third paragraph (why them) is flexible – you can swap these around if you prefer.  

Beginning

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 organisation or checking the website. This is especially important if you’re applying speculatively, ie where you approach an employer directly to ask about opportunities, not in response to an advertised vacancy. Contact the organisation to ask who is responsible for recruitment, or for a key contact in the department or section you want to work in.

When addressing your letter, use their title and last name only. If you're unsure about their gender, marital status, or preferred pronoun, you can use their full name. If you can't find out the name of the person, use a generic term such as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Recruitment Team’.

First paragraph: Introduction

Briefly explain what you are doing now and why you are writing. If the job or placement was advertised, include where you saw the advert.

If you are applying speculatively, be as specific as you can about what you are looking for. Consider giving the employer a range of options, so if no vacancies are available, you can possibly get involved another way, for example, through work experience, shadowing or even the chance to meet and ask questions.

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.'

Second paragraph: Why you? 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 with specific 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.

If you’re not applying for a specific advertised post, you may not have a job description to help you. You’ll need to work out which skills are required. To help with this, look at the job profiles on the Prospects website.

Convey your enthusiasm for the job and what you can bring to 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 contribute. Your examples could come from your degree, internships, part-time jobs, volunteering or extra-curricular experience.

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

You can split this paragraph into two, depending on how much you have written.

Third paragraph: Why them and why this role? Target the employer

Each letter should be tailored to the organisation and role. Recruiters will not be impressed with a generic covering letter. This is especially important if you are applying speculatively. Find out as much as possible about the field of work, the company and the type of role you are interested in.

Explain why you want to work for this organisation, eg their ethos, training, product/services, 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.

Optional paragraphs: Other relevant information

It may be relevant to include other information in your covering letter, eg 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 asking for adjustments from an employer, see:

Ending

Finish your letter in a polite and friendly way, saying when you would be available for interview. End on a positive note, eg 'I would welcome the opportunity to discuss at interview what I could bring to this role’ or just ‘I look forward to hearing from you.’

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. 

Follow up a speculative application

It’s useful to follow up a speculative application with a polite phone call or email a week or two later to show that you're proactive and motivated. 

Reiterate your interest in working for the organisation and the reasons why you feel you're a suitable candidate for them. Keep your call or email brief and thank the hiring manager for considering your application.

CVs and Covering Letters workbook

For more advice on writing CVs and covering letters, see our CVs and Covering Letters workbook. You can also access our accessible version CVs and Covering Letters Workbook (PDF: 116KB).

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Additional tips

For more advice on writing an effective covering letter, see:

Look at Examples

Looking at example covering letters can help you think about structure, content and how to demonstrate your skills. You can compare your own draft and see if there’s anything you need to add or improve.

We've created some example covering letters for graduate and part-time jobs below, including a speculative letter: 


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

Get Feedback

Find out how the Careers Service can help you write a winning covering letter.

CareerSet 

Our online AI-generated checker, CareerSet gives you instant feedback 24/7. It scores your covering letter using various criteria, including length, writing style and how well tailored it is to the job description. You can use the feedback to edit your letter and re-submit it to CareerSet as many times as you like.

You can access CareerSet directly or via the CV and Covering Letter Pathway.

After using CareerSet, we recommend you book a CV appointment through MyCareer to help you refine your covering letter further. You don’t need to have achieved a specific score on CareerSet to be able to do this.

If you would like any of the content in an accessible format, you can request this from CareerSet – see their Accessibility statement for details.

How to use CareerSet:

1. Log into CareerSet

To access CareerSet, you will need to accept their privacy policy and terms of use.

Students: Log into CareerSet with your Newcastle University email address to get an authentication link – this will log you in for the duration of one session. Your account is created on your first login.

Graduates: To access CareerSet you’ll need our Newcastle University graduate voucher code. The voucher code is listed in the CV and Covering Letter Pathway and on the graduate homepage of MyCareer.

2. Upload your covering letter

Click on Review my covering letter, then copy and paste the job description you want to compare your cover letter to. Alternatively, you can choose a sample job from the options given. Upload your CV to get your feedback report – this takes about 30 seconds. Your letter must be in PDF format. If you need help with this, see how to convert a Word document to PDF.

If you're not sure how to structure your covering letter, you can download a template from CareerSet to help you get started.

3. Review your score and feedback

Review your score and work your way through the feedback and tips to help you improve your covering letter. You don’t need to get 100% - we’d suggest aiming for a score above 70%, but if you’re struggling to reach that, don’t worry – you can book a CV appointment to get help from an adviser.

You can then upload your covering letter again to see if you’ve improved your score. 

The Careers Service will have access to your scores and feedback reports to help us develop further support and advice, but your covering letter is not stored in CareerSet. All information is in line with the University’s data protection policy.

What CareerSet can’t do  

CareerSet is a valuable tool for getting feedback on your covering letter, but there are certain things it can’t do. Instead, you can book a 1:1 appointment or submit a query via MyCareer if you:

  • don’t have much work experience to add to your covering letter – book an information appointment for ideas of how to find relevant opportunities and develop your skills
  • want to discuss how to ask for reasonable adjustments or mention extenuating circumstances on your covering letter

Feedback from a CV adviser

Before getting feedback from a CV adviser, you will need to have first completed the CV and Covering Letter Pathway on MyCareer, including uploading your covering letter to our automatic online checker, CareerSet. 

To book an in-person or online CV appointment, log into MyCareer and click on the button below. 

Book a CV appointment

You can also send your covering letter to us for written feedback - this can take up to 5 working days. Click on Queries/CV in MyCareer (top right-hand corner) to submit your query and covering letter.