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How to write a great covering letter

Career | Published 1 March, 2013 | By: Jennifer Beckles

If you want to capture the attention of your future employer, you’ll need to write a succinct covering letter.

“Bearing in mind the competitive nature of the teaching profession, first impressions are imperative and many applications may even be judged solely on the strength of the covering letter,” says James Innes, managing director of The CV Centre.

For this reason, education careers expert John Howson, recommends beginning the letter with a powerful statement: “Job applicants need to provoke the reader’s interest,” he says. However, what you leave out is just as important as what you put in, in order to keep the letter succinct and punchy.

To give you a hand with this crucial document, our panel, consisting of John Howson, The CV Centre and targetjobs.com.uk has contributed ideas for a sample covering letter outlining the structure and main points:

Name and address, on the right hand side of the page

Date, on the next line but starting on the left hand side

Name of recipient, (call the school to check the name spelling and title if you don’t have this)

Address of organisation.

Dear, (title and surname)

Include a reference to the job title/position and reference number

First paragraph   
This should be a strong statement outlining why you want to apply for the job and why at this school. For example, If the school has won a number of awards in certain areas, say “I want to work in a school that has won more awards for………” Say where you saw the job advertised. You could tell them here that you’ve enclosed your CV.

Second paragraph.
Do a little research on the school and tailor your letter by saying something specific, for example, naming the school’s strengths.  Expand on why you want to apply for this job and why at this school. 

Third paragraph
You could combine this with the second paragraph. Talk about your own strengths; why your knowledge and skills make you a strong candidate. Make a link between the school and you: where do its aims coincide with yours? Talk about any relevant experience and particular skills you have to offer. Back up your statements with hard evidence and refer to sections of your CV.

Fourth paragraph
Any other relevant points such as what you hope to gain from the job and how it fits into your career plans, or little extras you might want to mention such as any voluntary work or traveling you have done. Highlight any interests/roles or responsibility that are particularly relevant to the job on offer.

Final paragraph
Conclude positively; tone is very important. Tell them when you’ll be available for interview (and for work) and that you look forward to hearing from them. Remember to be brief: try to keep the entire covering letter to one side of A4.

Yours sincerely,

Your name

With thanks to John Howson, TES careers expert, The CV Centre and targetjobs.com.uk

Do you have tips for writing cover letters? Post below and let others know.




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3.1 average rating

Comment (23)

  • Great advice!

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    13:39
    5 August, 2008

    rpmcbride

  • Just the clear advice plus examles I've been looking for!

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    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    17:19
    8 January, 2009

    claire1311

  • excellent support in writing a letter of app

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    0:28
    9 January, 2009

    Gzalah123

  • Be careful not to write lengthy paragraphs - the last thing anyone in teaching wants is to have to wade through long chunks of text - use bullet points (even if actually omitted in a lettter format).

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    13:05
    11 January, 2009

    answerman

  • Bullet points... because you cannot be bothered reading someones history unless it's like a comic !

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    11:57
    12 January, 2009

    ramlosa

  • I am in process of applying for an international job and I shall take all this information on board, in conjunction with your advice about writing a great CV. I t would be interesting to see the results of peoiple who act upon advice in applying for posts and how successful they are.

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    14:13
    20 February, 2009

    lyndacooper

  • No! Bullet points because they may have anything from 10 to 100+ letters to read through and you want them to get as much out of the letter as possible from a scan read.

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    23:48
    22 February, 2009

    Anon ymous

  • I'm not sure I find this helpful as I feel there is one BIG thing missing out - THE PERSON SPECIFICATION! The first 2 paragraphs seem pretty fair enough but what is the point of applying for a job and only talking about the school and your strengths when the heart of the selection process is missed out?

    Furthermore, 1 side of A4? - Is this guy serious? Its a known fact that 2 sides is the preferred length. Every application that I have filled in has instructed me to complete 2 sides of A4.

    I am 100% certain that if I followed this "advice" I certainly would NOT get shortlisted.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    0:00
    9 May, 2009

    AnnabelleL

  • I think people are confusing the cover letter with the supporting statement/letter of application.

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    10:57
    17 June, 2009

    NicJ D

  • A very useful starting point - from this you can develop your initial approach according to any information sent.

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    11:18
    9 July, 2009

    GrHdfld

  • Great advice, thanks so much. Used for my first ever application, got the interview and smashed it. Good luck to those on the hunt.

    don't hope to get the job, EXPECT to get it and it will completely change the way you feel

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    22:21
    22 April, 2010

    hilikus9t7

  • The information is very useful, however i am still unsure as to the difference between a cover leter, letter of application and a CV. If anyone could help id really appreciate this
    Thank

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    12:16
    15 January, 2011

    nspence1

  • Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    12:52
    11 December, 2012

    jonesy_graham

  • Now I know where I've been going wrong - thank you.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    11:10
    14 December, 2012

    alison-bennett

  • A very different approach to applying for a teaching job in Australia so this advice is crucial.
    CV? Covering letter? Support statement??

    Thanks.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    13:54
    26 December, 2012

    RosemaryTite

  • I am confused regarding the cover letter and the supporting statement too. I have always completed the job application form and then a two page supporting statement. I thought this and the covering letter were the same?

    Do I have to provide a cover letter with the job application form AND then a supporting statement?

    Some advice would be much appreciated.

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    1:55
    18 February, 2013

    ellindop1

  • All job application require you to write a personal statement, this is the item that should coincide with the personal specification and should be no longer than two pages.

    I have then also been advised by my university to write a covering letter, which should be brief and no more than one side of A4 (they advised to hand write this to show your handwriting skills and to word process the personal statement)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19:07
    23 February, 2013

    bhanney1

  • i used to confusse the cover letter with the personal statement too. i am really comfused, in other to get this whole thing very clear, can i get a sample cover letter pls?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:18
    13 March, 2013

    phatmos01

  • i used to confuse the cover letter with the personal statement too. i am really confused, in other to get this whole thing very clear, can i get a sample cover letter pls?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    13:01
    13 March, 2013

    phatmos01

  • Same here!!!
    I was under the impression that the person specification was the key.....if you cannot address the criteria....essential or desirable.....into the bin!!!!!!!
    Unless some head can tell me otherwise!!!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9:53
    26 June, 2013

    alisaad

  • What do you do with online applications? Does this mean there is no opportunity to include a hand written covering letter? Do you ignore the online request and send one instead so you can!!?? assuming that you are best ot apply int eh manner they want!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:29
    25 August, 2013

    lidwella

  • What if the job is internal, would you need a covering letter? What information would you include then?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:19
    24 February, 2014

    gurjit_kc

  • I am currently applying for my first NQT position and would really appreciate some advice/guidance - would anybody be happy to check over my letter for me please.
    Many thanks

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19:38
    21 March, 2014

    bam53

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