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Cover Letters

A cover letter is a document you send to an employer alongside your application. It helps to introduce you and outlines your interest in the role.


Your CV should always be accompanied by a cover letter. This is unless the employer tells you otherwise.

It is a key part of your application. Your letter should:

  • explain your motivation for applying
  • show your suitability for the vacancy
  • highlight the most important parts of your CV

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

We also run regular workshops on writing cover letters during the academic year.

What to write in your cover letter

We'd suggest the following structure for your cover letter.

The order for the second (why you) and third paragraph (why them) is flexible. You can swap these around if you prefer.


  • 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. You can do this by contacting the organisation or checking the website.
  • If you are making a speculative application you should contact the organisation to ask for a key contact who can help with recruitment.
  • Address your letter correctly. 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.
  • A strong, confident and positive opening statement makes a good first impression. For example: 'I believe I have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to make a difference in this role and in your organisation.'
  • 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. If there are no vacancies available, you could get involved another way. This could be work experience, shadowing or even the chance to meet and ask questions.

Second paragraph: Why you? Summarise what you have to offer

  • Summarise the most relevant skills from your CV. What can you bring that makes you attractive to the employer?
  • Keep your summary concise, with specific examples from your experiences. Try to avoid highlighting generic skills and qualities in isolation. Instead, focus on how you developed your skills. For example, 'I am a reliable and trustworthy person with good communication skills' doesn't show 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 a variety of places. Your degree, internships, part-time jobs, volunteering or extra-curricular experience are all valuable.
  • 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. This could be their ethos, training or product/services. Mention any contact you have had with the company.
  • Show that you have researched the company 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. This could be 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. To do this, book a CV appointment via MyCareer.

For advice on asking for adjustments from an employer, see these websites:


  • Finish your letter in a polite and friendly way, saying when you would be available for interview. End on a positive note. 'Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I look forward to hearing from you' is a good example.
  • To end your letter, write 'Yours sincerely' if you know the name of the person you're writing to. It is 'Yours faithfully' if you don't know the name, followed by your signature.

Example cover letters

See our example cover letters to help you think about structure and content. They can also give you ideas on how to demonstrate your skills. Compare your own draft and see if there’s anything you need to add or improve.

Cover letters for graduate and part-time jobs

Advice about writing effective cover letters, with examples 

Find further advice about writing cover letters on these websites:

CVs and Cover Letters workbook

For more advice on writing CVs and cover letters, see our CV and covering letter workbook for students (PDF: 384kb).

Speculative applications

Not all jobs are advertised. You can reach out to companies directly to ask about opportunities. This is called a speculative application. A good starting point is to contact small to medium sized companies. Larger organisations tend to have more established routes for work experience.  

When writing speculative applications, be as specific as you can about what you are looking for. Consider giving the employer a range of options. If there are no vacancies available in the company, you could get involved another way. This could be work experience, shadowing or even the chance to meet and ask questions. 

See a speculative cover letter example and tips on how to write a speculative cover letter: 

How to follow up a speculative application

Follow up a speculative application with a polite phone call or email a week later. This shows you're proactive and motivated.

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

Get Feedback


Our online AI-generated checker, CareerSet gives you instant feedback 24/7.

CareerSet scores your cover letter on key skills that recruiters look for. It focuses on impact, brevity and style. You can use the feedback to edit your letter and re-submit it to CareerSet as many times as you like. You can also match your letter with a job description, to help you tailor it to a specific role.

You can access CareerSet directly or via MyCareer.

After using CareerSet, we recommend you book an online or in-person CV appointment to go through your cover letter. Alternatively, you can send your cover letter to us for written feedback via MyCareer. You don’t need to have achieved a specific score on CareerSet 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 in to CareerSet

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


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 will be created on your first login.


To access CareerSet you’ll need our Newcastle University graduate voucher code. This is listed in the CV and Covering Letter Pathway.

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

2. Accept the:

3. Click on Review my Covering Letter. 

Upload your cover letter. This takes about 30 seconds. Your cover letter must be in PDF format:

You can also copy and paste the job description you want to compare your cover letter to or choose an example. 

4. Review your score and work your way through the feedback and tips to help you improve your cover letter.

There’s no such thing as a perfect cover letter, so you don’t need to try to get to 100%. We’d suggest aiming for a score above 70%, but if you’re struggling to reach that, don’t worry.

You can book an online or in-person CV appointment to get help from a CV adviser. You can then upload your cover 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 cover 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 cover letter, but there are certain things it can’t do. Instead, you can book an in-person or online appointment or submit a query via MyCareer if you:

  • don’t have much work experience to add to your cover letter. Book a information appointment for help on how to find relevant opportunities and develop your skills
  • want to discuss how to include reasonable adjustments or extenuating circumstances on your CV

Feedback from a CV adviser

Before you book a CV appointment or send us your cover letter for feedback, you need to complete the CV and Covering Letter Pathway on MyCareer first. This includes uploading your CV/cover letter to CareerSet.

Once you have completed the Pathway and made any changes suggested by CareerSet, you can then receive 1:1 feedback from a CV adviser. 

You can also send your cover letter (in Microsoft Word) 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 CV.