Covering letters & speculative applications

A covering letter accompanies your CV when you send it to a prospective employer. Use it to highlight the skills and experience you have that best match the competencies specified in the job description. An A4 page, with five structured paragraphs should be sufficient:

  1. Opening paragraph: Explain why you are writing.  Say where you saw the advert and introduce yourself.
  2. Why this type of work: Describe why you are interested and motivated by the type of work.
  3. Why this employer: Explain why you are interested in this particular employer.  Demonstrate some knowledge of the organisation.  Avoid repeating text from their publicity information.
  4. Why you: Explain why you are suited to the post.  Mention your relevant skills, experience and knowledge.
  5. Closing paragraph: End politely, saying you believe you've shown that you've met their requirements and you look forward to hearing from them.

Speculative letters: this type of letter is used if you're contacting an employer who has not advertised a vacancy but who you would like to work for or get experience with.  Tailor it carefully to the organisation and provide good reasons why they should employ you, perhaps suggesting a specific project you could undertake for them.  An example speculative letter and more details on how to structure it are provided on this page.

Spelling and grammar: employers reject applications with poor spelling or grammar.  Set spell check to British spelling when applying for UK jobs.  Use the University of Bristol's Improve your writing resource to brush up on grammar rules.

The Careers Centre has numerous books on the application process which are available on short-term loan from reception.

We are committed to working with and supporting all students, providing access to impartial information and resources.  Visit Diversity and equality for further details.