Your Cover Letter

!!! Your covering letter is a sales letter.

covering letter (noun): short letter sent with another document; cover letter (US)

When you send your CV to apply for a position, you should also include a short letter. This letter is called a covering letter or (in American English) a cover letter. A covering letter sent with a CV/resume is also called a letter of application. Your letter of application is a sales letter. The product it is selling is your CV.


The reader of your letter may be busy and unwilling to waste time on unnecessary details. You should therefore design your letter to be easy to read. It should be short, concise and relevant. It should not be too formal or complicated.

Your letter should:

  1. confirm that you are applying for the position
  2. say where you learned about the position
  3. say why you want the position
  4. say why you would be a benefit to the company
  5. request an interview


The layout of a modern business letter in English is very simple. Your address is at the top, on the right or in the middle. The rest of the letter can be in 'block' format, with each line starting on the left. Try to keep the whole letter on one single page, with plenty of white space.

Here is the typical format for your covering letter:

1 Your address - telephone - fax - email
Put your address + your telephone number, fax and/or email address at the top in the centre OR on the right.

Do NOT put your name here.
1 Your address
2 Date Do not write the date as numbers only, for two reasons:
  1. It can be considered too official and therefore impolite
  2. All-number dates are written differently in British English (31/12/15) and American English (12/31/15). This can lead to confusion.
3 Destination name and address This is the name of the person to whom you are writing, his/her job title, the company name and address. This should be the same as on the envelope.
4 Reference This is the reference number or code given by the employer in their advertisement or previous letter. You write the employer's reference in the form: 'Your ref: 01234'. If you wish to include your own reference, you write: 'My ref: 56789'.
5 Salutation (Dear...) A letter in English always begins with 'Dear...', even if you do not know the person. There are several possibilities:
  • Dear Sir
  • Dear Madam
  • Dear Mr Smith
  • Dear Mrs Smith
  • Dear Miss Smith
  • Dear Ms Smith
6 Subject The subject of your letter, which for a job application is normally the Job Title.
7 Body The letter itself, in 3 to 6 paragraphs.
8 Ending (Yours...)
  • Yours sincerely
  • Yours faithfully
  • Yours truly
9 Your signature Sign in black or blue ink with a fountain pen.
10 Your name Your first name and surname, for example:
  • Mary Smith
  • James Kennedy
11 (Your title) If you are using company headed paper, write your Job Title here. If you are using personal paper, write nothing here.
12 Enclosures Indicate that one or more documents are enclosed by writing 'Enc: 2' (for two documents, for example).

Should your letter of application be hand-written? Probably not. In some cultures employers require candidates to send letters written by hand. But in the English-speaking world, an employer would usually prefer to receive a letter of application that is word-processed (that is, produced on a computer and printed). A hand-written letter could be considered unprofessional. You must judge according to the country, culture and tradition.

Sample Cover Letter