When you send your CV/resume to a company when applying for a job, it is normal to also send a job covering/cover letter with it as well. Many people either don't know how to create a good covering letter or don't think it's important. Both of which are big mistakes, because your covering letter is one of the main factors in deciding whether you'll get a job interview or not.

To help you know how to write your own good covering letter/email, you will find a exercise below that'll show you what to do. Doing this exercise will not only help you understand what makes a good covering letter (the content and the structure), but provide you with professional English phrases/vocabulary that you can use in your own.

But before you start the exercise, you need to know a few things first.

What a covering letter is for

A covering letter is used to:

  • Tell the person receiving it that you are applying for a job (and which).
  • Summarize the most important & relevant information from your CV/resume.
  • Provide information on how they can contact you.

Of these three things, it is this summary of your CV/resume on the job covering/cover letter or email which the people receiving it are most interested in. They use this information to decide if you are right for the job. If they think you are, they will then read your CV/resume. If not, they probably won't. So that's why potential employers want a job covering/cover letter, to save themselves time.

So it is extremely important that when applying for a job, your covering/cover letter is both written and structured well. It has to be formal, polite, short and contain the information (experience, achievements and skills) from your CV/resume that you think a potential employer will most be looking for in a candidate for the job. If you do this, you will improve your chances of getting a job interview.

So let's now do the exercise.


Exercise & Example:

Read the following covering/cover letter from Juan Cruz for a sales executive position/job with a large multinational engineering company.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning and purpose of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in response to the advertisement for the position of a sales executive in the Madrid office of your company. I am confident that I would be an excellent candidate for both this position and for working within a company such as your own which has a reputation for excellence and innovation.

I am a highly motivated, diligent and committed individual, who throughout my 10 year career in sales has demonstrated the ability of being:

Goal-Orientated - Surpassing my annual sales targets every year of my professional career.
Adaptable - Having the ability to quickly learn and use new techniques, methodologies, strategies when selling a variety of different products.
Able to speak fluently in English - I have the Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English and use English on a daily basis in my current position.

I have extensive experience of working as a sales executive for two large multinational companies, Almagro Construction SA and Telefonica SA. During my time in Telefonica I have been responsible for several multi-million Euro project negotiations that were conducted entirely in English and lead to Telefonica obtaining contracts that totalled a value of €61.3 million.

Please find attached a copy of my CV which expands on my experience and achievements.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss further the possibility of working for you in this position. I am available to do an interview when it is convenient for yourselves.

If you have any questions, I can be reached on either my mobile (0034 71761231) or by email (juan_cruz871@gmail.com).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Yours faithfully,


Juan Cruz


Learn how to do a good job interview Learn how to write a good CV/resume

Quiz:

Below are 13 questions about the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use each word/phrase once. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, this icon will appear next to the answer. Click on this for both extra information and a detailed explanation why this answer is correct.

1.

A professional way to say that you have worked in a type of job for a long time, is

     

I have extensive experience of working:
(phrase) This a formal phrase that basically means 'I have done this type of job for a long time'. Most companies look for people who have experience in doing a job/role, it's both less of a risk for them and means they don't need to spend a lot of time training the person. So, it's important in a covering letter to write about having a lot of experience.

The above phrase is followed by either the title of the role/job (e.g. 'as a project manager', 'as a customer services analyst' etc...) or by the area (e.g. 'in project management', 'in customer services' etc...). After this, you say 'where' (e.g. 'for Barclay's Bank') or how many companies (e.g. 'in two large retail companies').

For example:

'I have extensive experience of working in customer services in two manufacturing companies'.

If you don't have a lot work experience, focus on your qualifications and other types of achievements/experience, e.g. 'I have been responsible for organizing events for the student's union at university'.

In Spanish: "tengo amplia experiencia trabajando".

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2.

A phrase where you say what your three main abilities are and is used to introduce the section about your skills, is

     

I am a highly motivated, diligent and committed individual:
(phrase) This phrase is a way to tell the person reading the covering letter what your personal abilities and strengths are. You can choose whatever ability adjectives you want (e.g. hard-working, dynamic, reliable etc...), but when using this phrase you should use three and they should go between 'I am a' and 'individual', e.g. 'I am a hard-working, dynamic, and reliable individual'.

This phrase is used to start the section on a covering letter of abilities. It is normally followed by giving short examples (in bullet points) of things which prove you have these abilities (see the covering letter).

In Spanish: "soy una persona altamente motivado, diligente y comprometido".

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3.

A phrase that is used to provide the candidate’s contact details, is

     

If you have any questions, I can be reached:
(phrase) This is a formal phrase commonly used on covering letters that basically means 'you can contact me'.

After the phrase, you provide a phone number and an email address. For phone numbers, you use the preposition 'on' in front of the 'my mobile (0044 737412321)'. For email addresses, you use the preposition 'by' in front of the 'email (juan_cruz871@gmail.com)', e.g. 'If you have any questions, I can be reached on either my mobile ( 0044 737412321) or by email (contact@blairenglish.com)'.

In Spanish: "si tiene cualquier pregunta, puede contactar conmigo".

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4.

A phrase which means 'I'm perfect for this job', is

     

I am confident that I would be an excellent candidate for:
(phrase) This phrase is commonly used in covering letters and means 'I'm perfect for this job'. But whereas, 'I'm perfect for this job' sounds very arrogant, 'I am confident that I would be an excellent candidate for' sounds that you are just confident (because of the use of 'I am confident' and 'would').

It is normally used in the first paragraph of the letter. It is followed by the 'this job/position/role'. For example, 'I am confident that I would be an excellent candidate for this position'.

It is a very good phrase to use because you can follow it by saying how good the company offering the job is (e.g. 'the world leader in international banking', 'the best university in Spain' etc...).

In Spanish: "tengo la plena confianza que yo sería un excelente candidato para".

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5.

A phrase that means that something was done only using English, is

     

Were conducted entirely in English:
(phrase) This is a formal phrase that means something was done only/always using English. It should only be used by non-native speakers of English, to show that their level of English is very good. This phrase should only be used for events of verbal communication (speaking and listening) and not written communication (e.g. a report, a CV etc...).

The phrase is used for events where there is a two-way conversation, e.g. interviews, meetings, phones calls, negotiations, conference calls etc... The event goes in front of the phrase, e.g. 'all the meetings were conducted entirely in English'.

If sometimes, another language was used, you should replace 'entirely' with 'mostly'.

In Spanish: "se realizaron completamente en inglés".

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6.

A polite phrase that asks for an interview or a phone call to talk about the job, is

     

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss further the possibility of:
(phrase) This is a polite and formal way of saying 'I would like to talk directly to you about this job'. The phrase is polite because it uses the words 'would', 'opportunity' and 'possibility'.

The phrase is used to start the part of the covering letter where you ask for an interview. The phrase is normally followed by 'working with you in this position'. You would then follow that by writing 'I am available to do an interview when it is convenient for yourselves'.

In Spanish: "acogería con agrado la oportunidad de hablar de la posibilidad de".

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7.

A verb that has the same meaning as 'show', is

     

Has demonstrated:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to demonstrate'. This verb has different meanings. In this context it means 'to show/display' an ability or skill (e.g. work under pressure, manage people, win contracts etc...). This verb is used as it sounds more professional than 'to show'.

When using 'to demonstrate' in a CV, covering letter or interview, the verb follows where or when you have done it (e.g. 'in my career', 'at Barclay's') and the verb is always followed by the ability or skill (e.g. 'the ability to work under pressure', 'the ability to be customer focused').

For example:

'In my career I have demonstrated the ability to manage a team'.

In Spanish: "haber demostrado".

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8.

Another way to say something happened 'for a part (or parts) of a period of time', is

     

During my time in:
(phrase) 'during' means that something happens for a part(s) of a period of time or an event (e.g. a film, a meeting, a career etc...), e.g. 'it was raining during the day' means it rained for a part or parts of the day, but not continuously for the whole day.

On a CV, covering letter or in a interview, it is normally used to say what your main achievements where (e.g. 'I was responsible for managing major projects' etc...).

For example:

'During my time in Google, I was responsible for overseeing the implementations of major changes within the company.'

If you want to talk about what abilities and skills you have demonstrated (e.g. meet deadlines, work under pressure etc...), it is better to use 'thoroughout' (which means continuously) than 'during'.

Depending on what period of time you want to refer to, you can either follow 'during my time in (or at)' by the name of the company you worked at (e.g. Microsoft) or the name of the position you had (e.g. manager, sales executive etc...). If you use this phrase to talk about a position/role, you would replace 'in' with 'as'. For example, 'during my time as a sales executive'.

If you want to refer to your whole working career, you would use 'during my career' instead.

In Spanish: "durante mi período en /durante el tiempo que he pasado en".

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9.

A phrase that tells the person receiving the covering letter that they can decide when the interview happens, is

     

I am available to do an interview when it is convenient for yourselves:
(phrase) This polite and formal phrase basically means 'I can do an interview when you want'. It is normally written in covering letters at the end.

This sentence always follows 'I would welcome the opportunity to discuss further the possibility of working with you in this position'.

In Spanish: "estoy disponible para ser entrevistado cuando a ustedes les parezca oportuno".

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10.

A polite phrase that shows your appreciation for the person reading the covering letter, is

     

Thank you for your time and consideration:
(phrase) This sentence is always used on covering letters. It is a very polite way of saying 'thank you'. It comes at the end of a covering letter, just before 'yours sincerely' or 'yours faithfully' (See the Email Essentials Exercise for an explanation of the difference).

In Spanish: "gracias por su tiempo y por su consideración".

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11.

Another way to say 'from the beginning to the end', is

     

Throughout:
(preposition) 'throughout' is similar to 'during'. It means that something happens continuously from the start to the finish of a period of time or an event (e.g. a film, a meeting, a career etc...). For example, 'It was raining throughout the day' means it didn't stop raining for the whole day.

On a CV, covering letter or in a interview, it is normally used to say what abilities you have demonstrated (e.g. I have shown the ability to work under pressure).

For example:

'Throughout my career, I have demonstrated the ability to both meet deadlines and be adaptable when the situation requires it.'

You can follow 'throughout' with 'my time in/at' (when you want to talk about company), 'my time as a' (when you want to talk about position/role) or 'my career' (when you want to talk about your whole career).

Although 'during' can be used with the same meaning, it is normally used to mean for a part(s) of a period of time or an event.

In Spanish: "durante todo/toda".

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12.

A phrase which tells the person reading the letter that you have also sent them your CV/résumé, is

     

Please find attached a copy of my CV which expands:
(phrase) This formal phrase is always used on a covering letter and tells the person that you have sent the email/letter with your CV/résumé.

It always starts a new paragraph directly after you have described your main abilities/experience. The phrase should always be followed by 'on my experience and achievements', e.g. 'Please find attached a copy of my CV which expands on my experience and achievements'.

If you are sending the covering letter and CV/résumé as a letter (not by email), in theory you should replace 'attached' with 'included', but most people don't.

In Spanish: "he adjuntado una copia de mi CV que amplía".

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13.

A phrase that says why you are sending the email or letter, is

     

I am writing in response to the advertisement for:
(phrase) This phrase explains what the purpose of the email or letter is. After 'Dear Sir/Madam' or 'Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss' (See the Email Essentials Exercise for an explanation of the difference), this phrase should always be the first thing that is written.

It is used when it is the first contact/letter/email about the job/position. It is always followed by the full title of the job/position (e.g. 'the position of a marketing manager') and sometimes by the location of the job.

For example:

'I am writing in response to the advertisement for the position of an IT consultant in your Leeds office'.

In Spanish: "me dirijo a usted en respuesta al anuncio para".

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Practice

Now that you understand the vocabulary and the structure, practise it by creating your own covering letter.