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Writing a cover letter

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Published: 24 March 2022

University of Sunderland in London student listening to a lecture 

One skill that takes some time, practice and patience to get right when applying for jobs is the cover letter.  

We’ve found that University of Sunderland in London students are always keen to get applying for work as soon as they can and we’re sure you’re no different.  

But it’s absolutely worth giving yourself the best chance possible by learning the art of cover letter writing first. 

What is it?  

A cover letter is basically your first proper chance to argue your case for why a company should hire you. 

It normally comes in the form of a letter (about a page to two pages max), where you explain your background, work history and how your experience will help you excel in the role you’re applying for.  

That being said, it’s becoming more common for employers to ask you specific questions, with the expectation that you’ll write two or three paragraphs for each.  

This helps you be more focused and creates less chance for rambling on.  

While that sounds ideal, it’s still likely you’ll come across the first version a lot, so it’s worth thinking about how best to approach it.  

Be unique 

First off, the whole reason you’re being asked to write a cover letter is for you to show the hiring team how you differ from the many other candidates they’re likely to get. 

That means you will need to write an individual cover letter for every job you apply to. While that can sound time-consuming, remember jobs applications are all about quality over quantity. You only need one yes. 

The other part of being unique is to show them how you differ from everyone else. Yes, you’ve got the qualifications and experience asked for in the job description, but what else?  

Have you done volunteering? What about starting your own side hustle? Things like this show your personality and drive. They’re also likely to be something the competition hasn’t done. 

Cover everything 

While it can be difficult knowing where to start with a cover letter, the hiring team have actually done you a favour already. 

Take a look at the job description and the person specifications - often found at the bottom of job application pages.  

This is essentially a bullet point list of everything you need to talk about in your cover letter. 

Copy and paste each point into a document and use them as headings for short paragraphs where you explain how your experience matches the requirements. 

Make sure you remember to delete the headings at the end - a cover letter should be just that. 

Use their names 

Talking about it being a letter, make sure you address it to the correct person. Normally that would be the hiring manager, although sometimes it’s the head of HR.  

It’s best to check the application details as they might specify who the is should be addressed to.  

If not, check out the email address they ask you to send it to. If it’s someone’s name, use that. If not, there are a couple of things you can do. 

Either look on the company website for the manager of the role you’re applying for.  

As a last resort, if none of this information is available it’s totally OK to call them up and ask whom to address the letter to. 

Whatever you decide to do in the future, the University of Sunderland in London Careers and Employability Service is here to help.      

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass or email them at careers-london@sunderland.ac.uk. Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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