Dear Sir Madam Cover Letter Uk

How to write a successful covering letter

 

Why do you need a covering letter?

“My pet hates: incomplete and inaccurate application forms, no covering letter, poor grammar and spelling, careless handwriting and letters written on scrap paper”

Partner in firm of solicitors.

The covering letter is vital to your CV. This is why it is the first page and not an addition. "Please find enclosed my CV" won't get you very far.

Your covering letter demonstrates your writing style better than your CV (which is usually more brief and factual).

The covering letter puts flesh on the bare bones of the CV. It points out to the employer the information showing that you have the qualities the job calls for, and makes a statement about yourself and your suitability for the job. It should give the personal touch that your CV will intrinsically lack.

A survey in the US of employers found that
  • 42.9% wanted candidates to submit a cover letter for each position.
  • 29.8% felt that they were not important ("I don't have the time to read them anyway")
  • 27.4% had no preference

 

How long should your covering letter be?

In the same survey above
  • 19% of employers preferred a full page
  • 46% preferred half a page
  • 11% had no preference
  • 24% felt the shorter the better!

The key point here is that it should never be longer than one page long.

  • Plain white photocopier paper is fine. It's OK to print your letter on expensive cream or pale blue paper, but content and layout are far more important! Use the same colour for your CV. Don't use lined paper or paper with punched holes!
  • If emailed put your covering letter in the body of the email. If you attach it with nothing in the email body it may be misidentified as spam.
  • Don't make the employer work to read your letter!
    Keep it clear, concise and to the point.
  • Try not to go over one side of A4: if it does, you are writing an essay instead!
  • Use your own words not formal long-winded clichés.
  • Action verbs can help to make it sound better.
  • Spell-check and then double-check your spelling and grammar. Spell checkers won't pick up form instead of from or sex instead of six!
  • Answer the question "Why should I see you?"
  • Make the person who reads it feel special: that it is addressed to them personally and not one of fifty identical letters you are sending out without thought or care,
  • You might include your understanding of the work/knowledge of the company, and how you fit the criteria required. "I have a real interest in working as a ...." will not do: you must say why you decided to pursue this career, what first brought it to your attention, why you as a History student should be interested in a career in finance.
  • Relate your skills to the job. Show the employer that you have obtained the communicating, teamworking, problem solving and leadership or other skills that are appropriate for the job. See our Skills pages
  • Say when you're available to start work (and end, if it's a placement): be as flexible as possible.

Find a quiet place to write your letter .....

 

 

Even something as basic as the name of an employer, or an individual recruiter, is often spelled incorrectly.  The former Graduate Recruitment Manager at City law firm Mayer Brown found that 20% of applicants got the firm’s name wrong.

Who should you address your letter to?

Try to find the name of the person to write to. Research by Forum3 found that those who included a letter with their CV were 10% more likely to receive a reply and those who addressed the covering letter and envelope to the correct named person were 15% more likely to receive a letter of acknowledgement and 5% more likely to gain an interview. They also found that 60% of CVs are mailed to the wrong person, with the managing director being the main beneficiary of the unsolicited mail.

Think of a covering letter as a glass of brandy. It's a short measure, quite potent, you'll know very quickly if you like it or not, and it's very easy to judge the quality.

A CV is more like a glass of wine. It's a bit longer, and while like brandy it's basically fermented fruit juice it takes more time to grade, and probably a bit more skill.

David Welsh, Richmond Solutions

A recent survey by Saddleback College in the USA found that the preferred salutions of HR managers were:

  • Dear Hiring Manager, 38.1% (I'm not so sure that this is right for the UK!)
  • Dear Sir/Madam, 17.9%
  • Dear Human Resource Director, 9.5%
  • To whom it may concern, 26.2%
  • Leave it blank if you don't know the name. 8.3%

 

"We would recommend to students that they think carefully about how to re-write at least their covering letter, and possibly also their CV specifically for the post they are applying for. The best applications were succinct and clear, with unfussy covering letters and CVs.

A survey of 500 employers and 2,000 consumers by the jobsite Foosle found that 60% of employers think CVs don't accurately represent people applying for jobs in their organisations. Many candidates use buzz words they think employers wish to hear. ‘Hard-working', 'team player' and 'motivated' were the most over-used words on CVs making them meaningless to employers and doing little to make candidates stand out.

It is also always worth checking over a covering letter before sending it, as there were silly errors such as spelling mistakes or the covering letter written for a different placement. A good idea that we saw surprisingly little of is to list the competencies that the job advert says are being looked for, and outline how and why you fulfil those competencies. "

Civil Service

The writing rules of George Orwell

  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive voice (e.g. "Bones are liked by dogs") where you can use the active voice ("Dogs like bones").
  • Never use jargon if you can think of an everyday equivalent.

    Does your surname matter?

    Researchers at Cambridge University found that, if your surname is King or Prince, you are more likely to be a manager, whereas those with more “common” names such as Cook or Baker are more likely to end up in blue-collar jobs.

 

What do employers look for in covering letters?

One survey of employers found the following
(From the brilliant 2010 Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden)
  • 33% Tailored skills from the job description
  • 26% Clarity (well-written, formatted, specifying job applied to)
  • 20% Details from your CV (additional accomplishments, explanation of any gaps, etc.)
  • 19% Your value, not the basics, why we should hire you
  • 18% Spelling & grammar
  • 17% Personal vision & uniqueness
  • 12% Brevity
  • 10% I never read them!

 

Suggested structure for your covering letter:

 

First Paragraph

  • State the job you’re applying for.
  • Where you found out about it (advert in The Guardian newspaper etc. - organisations like to know which of their advertising sources are being successful)
  • When you're available to start work (and end if it's a placement)
 

Second Paragraph

  • Why you're interested in that type of work
  • Why the company attracts you (if it's a small company say you prefer to work for a small friendly organisation!)
 

Third Paragraph

  • Summarise your strengths and how they might be an advantage to the organisation.
  • Relate your skills to the competencies required in the job.
 

Last Paragraph

  • Mention any dates that you won't be available for interview
  • Thank the employer and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.
 

If you start with a name (e.g. "Dear Mr Bloggs") you should end with "Yours sincerely". If you start with "Dear Sir or Madam" you should end with "Yours faithfully".

 

Emailed letters

Put your covering letter as the body of your email. It's wise to format it as plain text as then it can be read by any email reader.

"As an employer who's just gone through recruiting a graduate, I'd say about 50% of graduates sent me a pro-forma letter and standard CV, with no attempt at matching their skills and experience to those on the job specification.

Several had either got my company's name wrong, or left in the name of the organisation that they had previously applied to. A good 30% of the cover letters were between four and six pages long and a number had used CV templates without removing the format.

But those who can write a relevant cover letter and CV stand out like diamonds and are a joy to shortlist."

Emails are not as easy to read as letters. Stick to simple text with short paragraphs and plenty of spacing. Break messages into points and make each one a new paragraph with a full line gap between paragraphs. DON'T "SHOUT" (WRITE IN UPPER CASE!) Your CV is then sent as an attachment. Say you'll send a printed CV if required.

If you don't know the name of the person you are writing to, it's probably best to use the formal Dear Sir or Madam and to sign off Yours Sincerely or Yours Faithfully (see above).

If they have already emailed you, reply back in the same style, so if they have signed their email "Jenny", write Dear Jenny, but if they have signed it "Ms Smith", write Dear Ms Smith.

If they have emailed you and addressed you Hi Dave, then it's OK to reply Hi Jenny.

Also mirror the way they sign off, if they use "regards", "best wishes", then it's safe to do the same.

For more about this see the excellent BBC article Should e-mails open with Dear, Hi, or Hey?

How should you start it? Survey of covering letter opening lines.

Here are the most common opening lines from a sample of covering letters by University of Kent students (numbers of occurrences in brackets)

  • I have just completed my final year at the University of (3)
  • I am a final year law student at the University of (2)
  • As a law undergraduate at the University of Kent I am looking for
  • Currently I am pursuing a degree in .... at the University of
  • My name is .... and I am a final year student at the (4)
  • My name is .... and I am writing in response to your advertisement
  • I am writing to apply for the post of .... in your company (5)
  • I am writing in response to your advertisement in/for (3)
  • I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies for ....
  • I was very interested to read your advertisement for
  • I was most interested to read your advertisement for
  • Further to your advertisement in ...., I should like to apply for
  • With reference to your vacancy for a ....
  • I enclose my CV for consideration of the post of
  • Please find enclosed my application for the post of (3)
  • As you will see from my CV
  • I am seeking a placement within a 
  • I am currently looking for an entry-level post in
  • I am very keen to work for .... because of your reputation for
  • Your company has an excellent reputation for the training of graduates ...
  • I read with interest of your organisation's plan to .....
  • I open my own doors. When my peers give up, I go on.

Further Help

  • Now see our Covering Letter Examples
  • Also see our other pages on making applications including on-line applications.
  • If you are having difficulty with any part of your CV or covering letter, you can consult the duty careers adviser from 10.30a.m. - 12.30 p.m. and from 2.00 - 5.00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

 

How not to write a covering letter:

  • Being a Virgoan, my sense of assertiveness and resilience has prompted me to continue with my ambitions to be a solicitor in a major city law firm…I am also a seventh generation descendant of a Chinese princess and a Sulawesian warrior, which makes me…both an amiable and energetic person.
  • Up until a little while ago I used to compete in British-Eventing competitions on my horse, from which I got a real kick.
  • Am currently reading Robbie Williams' thought-provoking autobiography.
  • Like one of your coffees, I am designed to be opened, savoured and enjoyed. (in application to Nestle)
  • I am someone who knows my own destiny, but I have no definite long term plans
  • I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely in no one and absolutely nothing.
  • Here are my qualifications for you to overlook.
  • I am applying for the post of obstacle assistant (for optical assistant post)
  • If called to interview I would like to discuss the salary, pensions and sickness benefits
  • I have excellent memory skills, good analytical skills, excellent memory skills.
  • Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions.
  • I was working for my mother until she decided to move.
  • Spelt his own name wrongly: noticeable as he'd included it at both the top and the bottom of his covering letter.

 

 

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How to write an internship cover letter

Writing an internship cover letter is like peeling one of those big oranges. It’s tricky, and you can lose hope along the way, but it is necessary if you want to get to the fruit.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to writing a cover letter for an internship.

Before we begin...

Before we dive in, it might be a good idea to identify what an internship cover letter actually is. Otherwise, this could all get very confusing. A cover letter is a formal letter that is sent to an employer with a CV. Your cover letter should outline who you are, why you are interested in the internship, and why you are sending the employer your CV.

The primary aim of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to an employer, and silently urge them to read your CV. A cover letter should be short, and to the point. You do not need describe every single one of your talents.

The content of your cover letter should tease what is to come in your CV. To tantalise the employer, so that they are certain to read all of your CV, and invite you for an interview.

Step 1: To whom it may concern,

The opening address in a cover letter is remarkably important. It’s like the first flight of an albatross chick. If it takes to the wind, it will soar off the beach and into the sky, to a life of internships and career opportunities. If it falls and lands in the ocean, its feather will get wet, and it will almost immediately be ripped apart by tiger sharks.

If you address your cover letter to the wrong person, or to nobody all, tiger sharks will be the least of your problems. Recruiters and employers are woefully unimpressed by cover letters that are addressed to –

Dear Sir/Madam, and they go absolutely bananas if an internship cover letter begins with –

To whom it may concern,

How do you avoid their wrath? Find the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter. Start your internship cover letter like this:

Dear Full Name,             e.g. Dear John Smith,

Dear Mr Surname,          e.g. Dear Mr Smith,

Dear Ms Surname,         e.g. Dear Ms. Smith

(always write Ms instead of Miss/Mrs, don’t presume marital status)

Finding the recruiter’s name is not always easy. Sometimes, it can be like trying to find Where’s Wally in a book that is smaller than the ankle socks on a particularly small beetle. If you are struggling, you have a number of options…

  1.     1. Ring the company, and ask for the name of the person who is tasked with reading the cover letters for the internship you are applying for. (You could do this by email too).

Many organisations have a ‘no name’ policy for confidentiality reasons, so if they can’t give you a name…

  1.     2. Address your cover letter to the head of the department your internship is in.
  2.     3. If you cannot find the name of person that handles recruitment, address your internship letter to someone that works in human resources (HR).
  3.     4. As a last resort, address your cover letter to someone in the team you are applying to join.

If you address your cover letter any of these people, they will forward it to the relevant person. Your efforts will be recognised. There will be much cheering and clapping of hands.

Address your cover letter for an internship with Dear Sir/Madam or To whom it may concern… and your application will be treated like a turkey at Christmas – and not in a good way.

If you’re interested in finding out more about internships, visit our Internship Zone.

Step 2: Intro

Now that we have the first three words of your internship cover letter sorted, you can relax. For about three seconds. It’s time to tackle the body of your internship cover letter.

You need to specify what internship you are applying for. Write something along the lines of…

I am writing in regards of the vacancy for the consultancy internship with PwC,

Employers might be hiring interns for a number of different programmes; you need to ensure that you are being considered for the correct role.

It’s also a good idea to reference where you found the internship vacancy. Employers love to know what channels students use when looking for jobs. Here is an example –

as advertised on RateMyPlacement. Please find my CV attached.

Step 3: Company research

Now it’s time to let the recruiter know why you are interested in the internship. Don’t write ‘because mother told me to’. You want to give specific reasons why the company, or the content of the course have drawn you to this internship.

Do some research about the company that is organising the internship. Below is a list of areas that you should focus your research on…

  • Origins of company
  • Has the company been in the news recently
  • Any major projects the company have been involved in
  • Background of directors or the manager of the team you're applying to
  • Company values/vision

If you want to do some research on the programme you are applying for, check for any case studies or reviews written by previous interns.

RateMyPlacement has nearly 20,000 reviews of internships with some of the UK’s top employers. Each review is written by an intern, to offer honest advice and insight into their work experience. You can find our internship reviews here…

Now that you’ve done your research, you can return to your cover letter. Craft this paragraph around the question: why do you want to do this internship? Here is an example of how to approach this –

I am particularly drawn to this internship at PwC because of its concentration on sustainability and climate change consultancy. PwC is the market-leader in this field, and I am fascinated by the strategies PwC puts in place to help an organisation meet its social and environmental goals. I have been reading about PwC’s recent project, involving the implementation of new sustainability procedures in government buildings across the UK. My involvement in the ‘Clear Up Our Campus’ campaign at university was similar, and makes me a perfect candidate for this internship.

Here, you have shown you have specified why you are attracted to the course; you have demonstrated that you understand what the internship consists of; you have even commented on a recent project.

You have killed three ostrich-sized birds with one stone. Fantastic.

Step 4: Work experience & qualifications

Now we move onto your work experience, skills and qualifications, and why they make you perfect for the internship.

Ensure that you continue to keep the content of your internship cover letter relevant to the role on offer. If you can do a passable impression of Morgan Freeman, that’s great, but it won’t improve your chances of getting an interview.

What unique skills can you bring to the company? What previous work experience has prepared you for this internship? If you can answer these questions, employers will be under your spell. As if you were Hermione Granger. Or Ronald Weasley.

Try something like this –

As my CV describes, I am two years into a Sustainable Engineering degree, achieving high grades in modules that focussed on sustainable planning in urban environments. My studies have imparted a groundwork of knowledge, and analytical skills that are crucial for a career in this field of consultancy. I also have three years of work experience at The Bear Factory, which has imparted great collaborative skills.

Step 5: Outro

In this closing section, thank the recruiter for considering your application, and express your interest/availability for attending an interview. One sentence would do it.

It may seem strange, thanking a recruiter for considering your application. It’s very polite. Very wholesome. Something Tom Hanks would do. It is a great way of finishing your cover letter for an internship. Write –

Thank you for considering my application, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the programme further in an interview.

Step 6: Ta-ra

If you started your covering letter with a personal name, such as ‘Dear Susie,’ end it with Yours SincerelyIf you didn’t manage to find the recruiter’s name, put Yours Faithfully.

Pen down and go find some cake. You’ve just finished your cover letter.

Internship cover letter example

The examples from each step in this guide have been put together to form a full example of an internship cover letter. This example is for a consultancy internship with PwC.

Dear John Smith,

I am writing in regards of the vacancy for the consultancy internship with PwC, as advertised on RateMyPlacement. Please find my CV attached.

I am particularly drawn to this internship at PwC because of its concentration on sustainability and climate change consultancy. PwC is the market-leader in this field, and I am fascinated by the strategies PwC puts in place to help an organisation meet its social and environmental goals. I have been reading about PwC’s recent project, involving the implementation of new sustainability procedures in government buildings across the UK. My involvement in the ‘Clear Up Our Campus’ campaign at university was similar, and makes me a perfect candidate for this internship.

As my CV describes, I am two years into a Sustainable Engineering degree, achieving high grades in modules that focussed on sustainable planning in urban environment. My studies have imparted a groundwork of knowledge, and analytical skills that are crucial for a career in this field of consultancy. I also have three years of work experience at The Bear Factory, which has imparted great collaborative skills.

Thank you for considering my application, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the programme further in an interview.

Yours Sincerely,

Your Name.

Before you leave!

Before you return to watching The Crystal Maze, here are some top tips for you to remember when writing your cover letter.

  • - DON’T lie about work experience/qualifications. Recruiters are like Jessica Fletcher (from Murder, She Wrote) when discovering the truth.
  • - DON’T overshare. A cover letter (and CV) shouldn’t include personal information.
  • - TAILOR your cover letter to the internship you are applying for.
  • - DON’T undersell yourself. Remember Enrique Iglesias’ Hero. Your cover letter shouldn’t be a list of things you don’t have.
  • - DON’T forget to proof-read, and check for spelling and grammar.
  • - DON’T use clichés, or describe yourself using application buzzwords, such as ‘conscientious’ + ‘dynamic’. A panda can be conscientious and dynamic.

Register for Job Alerts & Careers Advice. It's FREE!

If you are applying for an internship, check out our blog Internship CV: Your Guide & Template. It has an absolutely cracking CV template, and seven foolproof steps to writing a CV that employers will want to take home and frame.

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