Stand out from the crowd – covering letter dos and don’ts

Did you know that on average an employer only spends around four seconds looking at your covering letter before deciding if to take your job application further? Scary eh? So what exactly can you do to stand out from the crowd and get your job application noticed?

Many employers and recruiters no longer ask for a covering letter. I agree with this to some extent as the majority of covering letters all seem to be pretty much identical to the last one. But if a vacancy asks for a covering letter then it’s a required part of the application process and you’d be unwise to ignore it.

Here’s a few of my dos and don’ts when it comes to creating covering letters that really add value to an application:


  • Provide a covering letter if the employer specifically asks for one
  • Use the job advert and specification to highlight why your skills and experience matches the vacancy in short paragraphs
  • Detail why this vacancy is of interest to you and why you think you’d be a good fit for the role
  • Briefly mention similar roles for other companies to pique their interest so they’ll pay more attention to the experience on your CV
  • Ensure that the layout is neat, written in paragraphs and proof-read before you submit your application. There’s nothing worse than a badly written covering letter full of grammatical areas or spelling mistakes.


  • Download a generic covering letter from the web – these templates won’t give the employer the extra information they’re looking for and they’ll probably spot a downloaded template a mile off.
  • Ramble on for several pages. Use short, succinct paragraphs to convey the information you really want them to read without over-facing them with page after page of copy. In my opinion, the ideal length of a covering letter is around 400 words.
  • Mention money or salary. If the employer thinks that you’re only interested in the job because of the attractive bonus scheme or pay packet then they’re unlikely to progress your application much further.
  • Forget to add your contact details! Although this information should be on your CV, having them on the top of a covering letter makes it easier for the employer to quickly find the details they need to get in touch with you.

For more helpful tips and tools to get your application to the top of the pile, contact us on 01782 338787 or via email at for some free professional advice