What is a UK style cover letter like? How can international students get acquainted on this important (but sometimes very mysterious!) job application document? Read on to find out!
In this series of blogs, we’ll cover all the basics you need to know about Careers in the UK as an international student. King’s Careers & Employability have just released new resources and a whole new layout on our International Students KEATS section – to answer all of your jobs and career-related questions.
A cover letter is where you talk about your motivation to apply for a job, and how the skills and experience on your CV relate to the specific job you are applying to. It is standard for employers to ask for a cover letter alongside your CV during a job application process.
When a UK employer reads a CV, they are skimming through the document to check essential information. While this gives some idea about who you are, the real moment comes when they read your Cover Letter. This is where you give the first impression of yourself, your motivation to applying for their vacancy and why you are a great candidate for the role. You will elaborate on experiences you have on your CV and tie these in with the specific job in context, making sure that the employer can really focus on what experiences or skills you have to offer.
Our quick tips to a great UK style Cover Letter
Now that you know a little bit about the importance of a cover letter, let’s see how you can craft a great application!
The essential flow
For a great cover letter, your aim is to write about three things: Why you want to work in the organisation, why you want to work in that particular job, and why your knowledge, attributes, skills and experiences make you the right candidate for the job. As you may already know, high importance is put to tailoring your application in the UK. So make sure you are not using a ‘generic’ cover letter or reusing one for multiple jobs!
Follow the ‘Person Specification’ criteria
Most job applications have a job description that includes the person specification criteria. It is a list of essential and desirable criteria that UK hiring managers look to when evaluating your application. To write a great UK style cover letter, always bring up examples that relate to these terms or keywords. For example, if the person specifications lists ‘leadership’ and ‘communication & teamworking’ as an essential criterion, you’ll want to talk about relevant leadership experience, and explain how you’ve developed experience in team working and communication.
Keep it brief and clear
The expectation is that a UK style cover letter is not too long – single page cover letters are popular and if some are longer, the aim is to only mention what is relevant and helpful for the employer to know. Keep your cover letter as brief as possible, while maximising the way you discuss your experiences, and ticking off keywords and examples relevant to the job specification document. Remember that your cover letter is an example of your written skills, so make sure you’ve triple-checked the text for typos or misspellings.
Don’t just tell, show
A cover letter is a way for you to talk about yourself – but it is not just retelling everything that your CV says. A great UK style cover letter mentions your experience and uses this as a springboard to discuss how your experiences have developed you or how you can apply them in this job. Just look at the difference between telling, “I worked in a café for 3 years” and showing, “I believe that my experience as a café worker, which taught me important customer service skills and the ability to work under pressure, directly benefits the needs of this job.”
Use your research!
Organisations are all very unique and stand for various different values. Make sure you have done some research as a UK style Cover Letter is expected to mention why you are applying to work for this employer specifically. Examples could include that you are a satisfied customer, you share personal values with the organisation based on your research, or you’ve learned something about them that has impressed you. A well-researched cover letter looks highly personal to employers and you have a higher chance of success.
Stick to a simple standard structure
What is the structure like? A UK style Cover Letter starts with a greeting, introduces you, then goes onto discussing the reason you’ve applied for THEM, discusses why YOU are an ideal candidate and closes off with a polite and motivated ending. Learn more about the structure and sections of a UK style Cover Letter on ourKEATS pages.
Getting feedback for your Cover Letter at King’s
It’s always a great idea to get feedback on your application. To proofread the text, or ask quick feedback, you can always send your Cover Letter to a friend. If you’d like dedicated feedback on your application from King’s Careers & Employability, our Application Advisers hold appointments to discuss and develop your application further. You can book these on King’s CareerConnect.
If you would like to join us for a Cover letter workshop, we run these throughout the year, also bookable on KCC.
That’s it… our quick guide through a UK style Cover Letter. In our next blog, we’ll talk more about what a job interview is like in the UK and what you can expect from the experience.