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A cover letter is a short letter that introduces your CV to the organization you are applying to work for. Your cover letter states why you want to work for that organization and why you would be good for the position. It offers a 'quick overview' of why you should get the job. It also gives an example of your writing ability and attention to detail. An effective cover letter catches the attention of the reader and makes him or her invite you for an interview. In some cultures cover letters are not important, but if you are applying for a job in an English-speaking country you must include one.

When you send your CV to apply for a position, you should also include a short letter. This letter is called a covering letter. A covering letter sent with a CV is also called a letter of application. Your letter of application is a sales letter. The product it is selling your-self.

The reader of your letter may be very busy and unwilling to waste time on unnecessary details. You should therefore design your letter to be easy to read. It should be short, concise and relevant. It should not be too formal or complicated.

Your letter should
  • confirm that you are applying for which position
  • say where you learned about the position
  • say why you want the position
  • say why you would be a benefit to the organization
  • request for a personal interview

The layout of a modern business letter in English is very simple. Your address is at the top, on the right or in the middle. The rest of the letter can be in 'block' format, with each line starting on the left. Try to keep the whole letter on one single page, with plenty of white space.

Should your letter of application be hand-written? Probably not. In some cultures recruiters require candidates to send letters written by hand. But in the English-speaking world, a recruiter would usually prefer to receive a letter of application that is word-processed. A hand-written letter could be considered unprofessional. You must judge according to the country, culture and tradition.