10 things to remember when writing a covering email

A covering email is the modern equivalent of a cover letter - a short, polite and positive message you attach with your CV when applying for a job. Like a cover letter, your cover email should include several items of information, as well as expressing your enthusiasm for the role.

In this guide we'll run through 10 things to remember when writing a covering email, to ensure that you include all of the necessities and get the tone spot-on too. Remember, your cover letter/email is your chance to make a personal statement and help your CV to stand out among (in many cases) hundreds of initial applications for the same job.

Here are 10 ways to make sure your cover email makes an impact:

1. Refer to the job advertisement

Address your covering email to the individual named in the job advert (if there is one) or to a generic formal salutation such as 'Dear Sir or Madam', or simply 'To whom it may concern' if you prefer a gender-neutral option.

Make it clear what job you are applying for. If there is a reference number in the job advertisement, include this at the top of your cover letter. Employers - and especially busy hiring managers - will look favourably on applications that put the important information first, and thus save them valuable time.

2. Address your current job situation

If you're currently in work, it's fine to talk about this briefly. Outline your current situation, your reasons for wanting to change job, and any notice period you may be required to serve before you can start your new job.

Be positive: it's not wise to allow your cover email to turn into a rant about your current employment, and it won't help your application to do so. Try to be positive about your reasons for moving on, whether that's because you want new challenges, to focus on your professional development, or some other 'next step' in your career plan.

3. Mention the company

It's good to show you've done some research about the company you're applying to, so mention a few of the facts you've found out. Maybe the employer has a strong reputation for doing charity work, or is consistently rated as a great place to work.

Again, you can keep this brief. It's just a chance to show that you are serious about the job and that you have put in the leg work to find out more about who you will be working for.

4. Say why you are interested

Following on from the above, you can talk about why you want to work for this employer in particular. While it's inevitable that (in most cases) candidates will apply for several jobs at once, it's good to show that each and every job is of interest in its own right.

This can lead on naturally from what you have researched about the company, and the things that impressed you. Especially for more senior roles, it's important that you want to work for the employer every bit as much as they want to hire you.

5. Demonstrate your value

Another natural progression from the previous point is to discuss your own value proposition as a candidate. Why should the hiring manager take the time to interview you, let alone hire you?

It's often difficult to express this in very few words, so practise until you feel like you can sell yourself in just 2-3 sentences. Think of it like an elevator pitch all about your own attributes and abilities.

6. Make it relevant and avoid repetition

This is two points in one, but they're closely related. First of all, always make sure that your covering email is relevant to the specific position you are applying for. Hiring managers can usually tell if you've copied and pasted your entire cover email from a previous application.

Second, don't just repeat information that's already included in your CV. This doesn't add value to your application. Instead, try to pick out a few personal points that you think make you valuable, but maybe didn't fit on your CV this time around.

7. Highlight transferable skills and versatility

'Soft skills' are the kinds of capabilities that you can bring to any job. Leadership, communication and teamwork are all among them. These transferable skills are worth mentioning, especially if you couldn't find space on your CV due to too much technical ability.

Consider including any achievements you are particularly proud of. That could be a leadership challenge you resolved successfully, a high-value contract you delivered on time, or anything that shows how versatile and dependable you are.

8. Don't just copy the job description

Tailoring your information to the role is useful, but don't just parrot the characteristics listed in the job description. Try to process the information provided and understand the nature of what the employer is looking for.

By doing this, you can make your cover email stand out, with some original information in there. But you also show the hiring manager that you can process information and take what's valuable from it - a useful skill in many jobs.

9. Check the length, tone and typos

A covering email should be kept brief. If yours feels too long, try to reword to cut unnecessary chitchat, or remove some of the least valuable information.

Check that you've maintained a formal, professional tone throughout and thoroughly check for spelling and grammar mistakes - don't just rely on spellcheck, as some incorrect spellings are not always flagged up.

10. Welcome further dialogue

It's good to end by expressing interest in any further dialogue from the hiring manager. Hopefully that will be an invitation to interview, but it might be that they need to clear up a technical aspect of your eligibility for the role. Any contact is good, so make clear that you are available to talk if needed.

For more tips on applying for a job, take a look at our job search advice or contact us directly to discuss your next career move.