It is quite common to be asked for a letter of application along with your application form (and perhaps your CV). Sometimes you may be asked to send only a letter of application, in which case it is obviously important to make it a good one. It is rare (but not unknown) for you to be asked to do your letter of application in your own handwriting. When there is no instruction to use handwriting, you have a chance to use your computer at last! It is also your chance to save time by making your own template on which to base all of your letters of application. With such a template you can edit up a one-page letter quite quickly, personalizing it to each particular job for which you apply.
What should be included?
Obviously, the letter should start with your name and address, and any other contact details, and the date of sending it. These can all be preprogrammed into your template. It is useful if the next information states clearly what this particular letter of application is about, for example:
Application by Sally Davies for the post of Technical Officer in the Department of Radiology, Western General Hospital
You do have to put the job title exactly as specified in the advertisement, as there may be several similar-sounding posts being appointed at the same time. You don’t have to put the employer’s full address and phone numbers – they should know who they are and where they are. However, it’s quite useful to include their details so that you have them to hand for future reference, both on paper and in your computer.
Next comes your opening statement, along the lines of T am pleased to submit my application for the above post. Please find enclosed my application form…’ (and CV if included). It’s useful to weave in the equivalent of ‘as advertised in The Guardian on 27 February 2007’. This adds to the impression you may want to create that you’re a well-organized individual and attentive to detail. They usually want to know, in any case, how you found out about the vacancy, as this helps them to keep track of which newspapers (or other ways of advertising) are bringing in the most promising applicants.
The next bit is the important one! In letters of application, your main job is to get them to want to find out more about you and to interview you. To do this, you need to cover two main issues:
- why you are particularly interested in, and attracted by, the prospect of the post, based on what you have already found out about it from the advertisement (and from any other source, such as a telephone call you may have made to find out more);
- why it is that you believe you are well-qualified for, and suited to, the post as advertised.
This means gently blowing your own trumpet for a paragraph (or at most, two). Weave in a little about any experience you already have that is directly relevant to the post. What you want to convey is T am an ideal person for this post, probably the best you’re going to find anywhere’, but in most cultures it would be quite unacceptable to put it like that!
Then you need to end your letter of application in a robust way. Something along the lines of T hope that I may have the opportunity to attend for interview, and to provide further evidence in support of my application for this post…’.
Unless you’re only sending a letter of application, it’s best that you get the whole letter onto a single side of paper. It is easier for employers to look at single sheets, without the loss of continuity which occurs every time there’s a page to turn.
Double-check your letter of application before you send it off, especially if you’re adapting a standard template you’ve created. Ifs surprisingly easy for a sentence or phrase you composed for one particular application to get slipped into a completely different one. It can be useful to use a code for the main things you’re going to fill in differently each time, such as the title of the post (perhaps xxx) and the date on your letter of application (or use an automatic date field – but print out a copy for yourself, don’t just rely on keeping your copy on disk, or you may lose access to the actual date on the letter you sent).
As with application forms, it’s vital to keep your own copies of your letters of application, and to be able to remind yourself about the exact words you used to put your case – you will be expected to justify your case and expand on it if asked for interview. Staple each letter of application to your copy of the completed application form. Staples are better than paper-clips – the latter have minds of their own!