Introduction:

How do you write and what do you include in a job covering/cover letter?

It is not difficult to write one when you know both the basic structure and professional phrases and vocabulary to use. A covering letter is basically a summary of the CV/resume with some additional details, some of which are focused on the company and the job/position that you are applying for. A covering letter is extremely important because it is the first thing a potential employer will read about you (before they look at the CV/resume). So, it has to be formal, polite, well written, short and contain all the appropriate information that a potential employer needs (e.g. contact details, where you heard about the job from, experience etc...).

In this online exercise on job covering letters, we will look at both professional phrases and vocabulary that are used when writing a covering letter/email in English and an example of the structure you should use when writing one. Although the example of the covering letter in this exercise is from a non-native speaker of English, most of the phrases can also be used in covering letters from native speakers too.

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Exercise & Example: A covering letter

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 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


Now do the QUIZ below to make sure you know how to write a good cover/covering letter.

Recommended Books For CVs/Resumes & Job Interviews

To improve your CVs/Resumes & Job Interview skills, we recommend the following books:

  1. 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.
  2. The Complete Interactive Job Interview Preparation Course [DVD].
  3. Winning Resumes/CVs.
  4. Resumes/CVs For Dummies.


Quiz: How to write a job covering letter/email

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation.

1. A phrase that means that somebody has 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 less of a risk for them and they don't need to train somebody. 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 that is used to introduce your personal abilities, 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 with 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 are you 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'. It is a very good phrase 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 used to start the part of the covering letter where you ask for an interview. The phrase is polite because it uses the words 'would', 'opportunity' and 'possibility'. The phrase is normally followed by 'working with you in this position'. And then by '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 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(s) 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(s) of the day, but not continuously for the whole day. On a CV, covering letter or interview, it is often followed by 'my time in/at' or 'my career', e.g. 'during my career'. Confusingly, 'during' can also be used in English with the same meaning as 'throughout' (something that happens continuously from the start to the finish of a period of time or an event), but I recommend that you don't use it with this meaning. 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 commonly used in covering letters. It is used for politeness, because there will be some times or dates when a candidate can't do an interview because of work or personal commitments. 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 interview, it is often followed by 'my time in/at' or 'my career', e.g. 'throughout my 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, e.g. '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 new vocabulary, practice them by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.