Career Advice

Writing a covering email

The advent of email means the days of laborious, handwritten covering letters that used to accompany printed CVs are well behind us. But take care not to make classic email application mistakes that send your CV to Deleted Items without even being opened.

Minding your Ps & Qs

  1. Make the effort: Ensure that the main body of your email states clearly why you’re making contact. CVs that are emailed as attachments to blank emails tell the recipient: even though technology makes it easy for me to say why I’m sending my CV in, I’m not going to bother trying. Remember – you may be only applying for one job; the recipient may have several vacancies on the go at any one time – how do they know which one you’re applying for? (On that note, if you’re asked to quote a reference numbers, make sure you do)
  2. Don’t add pressure: A bugbear for many recipients of CVs is the obligation that many jobseekers attempt (often unwittingly) to force on them to confirm safe receipt of their email and CV; when applications are coming in fast and thick, it’s virtually impossible to manually respond to every single one (although vacancy inboxes these days typically generate automated replies). Following up with a phone call can be equally tiresome to the recipient – unless you have cause to doubt that your CV has arrived safely (and not being immediately invited for an interview doesn’t represent am acceptable reason), leave well alone and trust in the system. Take care not to turn the heat up at the end of your email – while few people object strongly to applications that finish with ‘I look forward to hearing from you’, others may regard it as irksome; it’s often best to sign off with something less assertive, such as a confident but polite ‘If you have any questions or would like to know when I might be available, I’d be delighted to hear from you’.

Sell, sell, sell

  1. Know your goal: Your CV may be the marketing tool that gets you an interview – but it’s your covering email that gets your CV opened in the first place. If you’re replying to a job you’ve just seen advertised, the chances are the recipient of your email will be facing a bombardment of applications. Make sure yours stands out (and for the might reasons)
  2. Grab attention: Put yourself in the shoes of the employer – what would a stand-out CV look like? Answer two key questions:
    • Why you’re right for the job (briefly mapping to their desired skills and competencies)
    • Why the job appeals to you (although go easy on heaping praise on the organisation, which can carry overtones of false flattery)
  3. Check and double-check: Pause before pressing that Send button – give your email a quality audit, checking for spelling, grammar, relevance and attention-grabbing potential
  1. Putting together a winning CV
  2. Handling panel interviews
  3. Building your professional network
  4. Questions to ask at interview
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