When applying for a job, alongside a CV it is custom to send a covering letter. Read this simple guide to the covering letter – what is it and what should be in it to maximise your chances of getting that dream job. 

WHAT IS A COVERING LETTER?

A covering letter is your opportunity to tell the company why you are the right person for the job. As a student or graduate, it should be no longer than one A4 page.

UNDERSTANDING THE JOB ADVERT

• Adverts can cost a great deal of money, so may only provide a brief overview of the job rather than a comprehensive detailed list of work required. Minor points can often be worked out later to suit both you and the employer. 

• If you don’t understand the job description, contact the company for clarity – as you may waste a lot of time applying for the wrong position!

• Print off the advert and underline all the words that relate to skills or ability and ensure you tick off each one through your C.V and covering letter.

• Within the advert, it is common to read a list of skills that are not ‘technical’, but relate to business or ‘soft’ skills such as organisational ability, relationship building, team player etc. Spend time thinking about what the company means by these skills and consider good examples to prove you have these. 

• Try to reflect the tone of the company’s advert: if it very formal, make sure you are also. However, some companies do create informal rather ‘jokey’ adverts, but do not take this as an opportunity to be likewise – always err on the side of formality.

WRITING THE COVERING LETTER:

• Employers want to know if you have the necessary skills and talents, exceed their needs or are not sufficiently qualified.

• Make notes and write draft versions to start with. List the skills and abilities required and answer each one.

• Work out an order of importance for your answers, trying to mirror the importance you feel the advert gives to each quality.

• Make sure you explain clearly your involvement in any group or joint projects (use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’) – but ensure you don’t come across as having done it all single-handed! 

• Give examples that demonstrate your abilities and explain the measure of its success. For example: ‘I redesigned a website for a new sportswear label X….in consultation with the designer and her team which led to a X% increase in online sales.’

• If you are still a student or just graduated, you can include skills learnt while studying in the place of the skills acquired while working, where relevant, e.g. your ability to research can be shown through projects undertaken at university.

• Check your covering letter for spelling and have someone else read it to see if it makes sense and you have not left anything out.

 

EXAMPLE:

Look below for ARTS THREAD’s example on how to decipher a job advert to make the most out of your cover letter.

 

Assistant Designer – Home textiles

Salary: 21k-25k per annum

Location: Midlands

Job Description: A great opportunity has arisen for an assistant designer to join one of the biggest retailers at their Midlands based head office, on their home textile department. This retailer is one of the largest multi product nationwide, going international.

Requirements: This role is ideal for a design graduate with some experience, or someone more established looking to get into a large blue chip company. You will be researching trends, assisting on mood boards, supporting the designers and doing specification sheets, as well as other ad hoc duties. You should have strong CAD skills, and an eye for home trends. A commercial portfolio is preferred, with a great knowledge of fabrics. This is a great opportunity to gain experience in a large company. There is a structure to progress, and this retailer has a great benefits package.

 

NOTE: 

• ‘researching trends, assisting on mood boards’ and ‘great knowledge of fabrics’ – how can you show you have these skills?

• ‘supporting the designers’ and ‘as well as other ad hoc duties’- explain your administrative skills as well as IT skills and your team-player skills, giving examples.

• ‘strong CAD skills’ and ‘doing specification sheets’ – list your IT technical skills.

• ‘eye for home trends’ – you will have to show this in your portfolio at an interview, here you can talk about your work, and also add interest in the sector – exhibitions visited, trade shows, magazines read etc. 

• ‘commercial portfolio is preferred’ – take this on board and talk about work experience undertaken etc.

 

Content courtesy of ARTS THREAD: the online portfolio platform that promotes you to the creative industry worldwide.