Jobsite Cover letters

Article for by Emma Mercer

It's all about showing passion in your covering letter, says Roslind Toynbee, a Career Coach from Here's how to excite an employer with your written word.

Passion Sells

It is easy to revert to the same old clichés: 'please find enclosed my CV / I am writing to apply for the position of' etc. In your opening paragraph you need to demonstrate knowledge and interest in the company you are applying to. Show that you have done your research and mention something about the company that you have read on their website, or, even better, in the trade press - for example, 'I noticed you won an award last week'. Use flattery and explain why you are excited by the company: it might be the award they have won, their reputation or commitment to excellence. Use phrasing such as: 'I've been following the company in the trade press because I am excited by the pipeline project you've been working on'.

Show Don't Tell

Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and ask yourself what your Unique Selling Point (USP) is. Use your second paragraph to list three key points that the company might want to know about you and that make you stand out. This could be your work experience; skills such as languages; then something that gives your letter personality. Perhaps you have a reputation for bringing in projects on time and on budget - if so, mention it here. Explain what opportunities you can help the company capitalise on, how you excel at problem-solving, and how you can deliver for the company. If you are unsure, use your contacts and phone the company beforehand to find out what's really important to them.

Say It Right

Online applications can differ from written applications as many rely on computer scanning, so it is vital to include key words and phrases that have been used in the original job advert. In the second paragraph, instead of the three bullet points detailed above, you might instead list eight or nine skills using the exact words and phrases found in the job description with a brief explanation demonstrating how you possess them. In some applications you can even include a table, listing the role's requirements on the left side and what you can bring to the company on the right. Also, with written applications, be mindful that a junior HR person, who might not be familiar with industry jargon, could be doing the scanning, so, again, it is important to use some of the exact phrasing and key words from the job description.

Be Provocative

In your final paragraph, don't be afraid to be bold and show that you are determined and passionate about the role. Never resort to the hackneyed phrase 'I look forward to hearing from you' - this is passive and weak. Instead use a positive sentence such as 'May I call you in a week's time to check you received my letter and set up a meeting' if you have applied speculatively for a position, or 'May I call you in a week's time to check you received this and find out what the next steps are' if you are responding to an advert.

Looks Matter

As a general rule, an 11-point font size should be sufficient in a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Don't use coloured sheets or include photos. Good quality white paper and a laser printer is all you need. Get the layout right - your address in the top right corner; the employer's name, position, FULL address and date below, on the left. Always have a name to write to - if you are applying speculatively, make sure you phone up to see who will be receiving the letter. After this, write the job reference number and the position you are applying for in bold and underlined. Covering letters generally get scanned in under 10 seconds, so you shouldn't need to write more than the three paragraphs outlined above. After all, you don't want to give away all the gold - keep some examples back to talk about in the interview!

To see more Expert Top Tips, visit To find out more about Roslind's work, visit