A cover letter is a perfect place to expand on the things you touched on in your CV. It’s your chance to give some more detail on your work experience, and to show the employer a picture of who you are, and what kind of employee you will be.

Often employers don’t provide a word count for a cover letter, so it can be hard to know how much you should write. There is no strict rule; the critical thing to remember is that everything you write must be relevant to the job you are applying for. If it’s irrelevant, or off-subject, the employer may lose focus.  

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter, or covering letter, is a letter you write to an employer to accompany a job application and a CV. It’s the place where you can write about why you want to do the job, and why you think you will be good at it. It’s also an excellent way for the employer to see the quality of your written communication. If the job requires any written communication, even just emails, you must write the letter with fluency and clarity.  

It differs from a CV because instead of a list of the details of your work history, it’s a longer piece of writing related to the job you are applying for. Every time you introduce a new skill or bit of experience, you should always connect it back to the role.   

What shall I include in a cover letter?

Try not to feel intimidated about writing a letter to the employer; it’s a chance for you to show how great it would be for the job.  

Sometimes an employer will indicate the things they want you to cover in the letter. It’s often used to state how you meet all of the points on the person specification. For example, if the person specification says that the required skills and experience are 5 GCSEs, experience working with animals, and an enthusiastic, hard-working attitude, you know that these are the things you need to demonstrate in the cover letter.   

There is no need to include information that the employer is going to find elsewhere on your application. On the above example, you wouldn’t need to talk about your 5 GCSE’s in the cover letter because they will find this on your CV in your qualifications section. Make every word count and only include what is most relevant.   

Shall I include information about my personal identity?

One challenge of a cover letter is knowing how much personal information to disclose. You have to find the balance between remaining professional, while also giving them an accurate and authentic picture of who you are as an employee. 

At Aspiring to Include, we firmly believe that everybody should bring their whole selves to work and that nobody should have to hide part of themselves from an employer. While it’s important to remember that your employer doesn’t need to know details of your personal life, we understand that for many people your identity is an essential part of you who are both at home and work.  

For people who identify as part of an underrepresented group, your identity might have contributed to the skills and experience that you feel are relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, people who have had to fight their voice heard in a room, such as women in a male-dominated industry, or Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees in an all-white office, will be able to show confidence and resilience. Or somebody that was the first in their family to go to university might want to talk about their independence and drive.  

For further help and guidance visit our dedicated guides to supporting BAME jobseekers, Women jobseekers and LGBTQ+ jobseekers.