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Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students

Job Application Letters and Emails

Employers may receive hundreds of applications for a job, so it's vital to make sure that the letter or email accompanying your CV/résumé creates the right impression: it's your opportunity to say why you want the job and to present your case as a candidate for the post in the most effective way.

Click here for more on CVs/résumés.

You'll also find extra information on CVs/résumés and job applications in the dictionary centre section.

Here are some job application do's and don'ts:


  • read the advert carefully and tailor your letter to match the job you're applying for: include any information requested by the advert, such as when you could start work
  • research the organization on the Internet or in the media: this will show employers that you're interested in them
  • be brief: focus on giving a clear explanation of your suitability for the post
  • keep to one side of A4 paper
  • use brief, informative sentences, short paragraphs, and standard English
  • structure your letter in a logical way, with a limited number of paragraphs
  • use bullet points to highlight key points
  • proofread your letter for spelling, grammar, and punctuation (many employers just discard job applications that contain such errors)
  • see your college careers adviser: they'll be able to help with all aspects of job applications


  • go into too much detail: employers are too busy to read wordy letters
  • use slang or technical jargon and explain any obscure abbreviations
  • forget to read your letter for both content and mistakes (it's also useful to ask someone else to read it for you)
  • use many different typefaces: keep to one or two that are clear and easy to read
  • brighten up your letter with inappropriate colour or graphics

Here are some more guidelines on structuring your letter and the type of information an employer expects to see.

The usual order of a job application letter is:

  • heading/position applied for: give the title of the job (and reference number if appropriate) as a heading, or refer to it in the first paragraph. Human Resource departments often deal with many different posts at once, so stating the job (and reference number) will ensure that your letter goes to the right person. You should also mention the source of the job advert. If you heard of it through someone you know in the company, mention their name and position.
  • current situation: if you're still studying, say so, and give the end date of your course. If you're working, briefly outline your job. Pick up on the job requirements from the advert and focus on any of your course elements, skills, current duties, or experience that correspond to those requested.
  • reasons for wanting job: be clear and positive. For example, you could say you've always been interested in pursuing a career that develops your skills and outline what you can bring to the job or company.
  • closing paragraph: you could say when you're available for work or suggest that the company keep your CV/résumé on file if they decide that you're not suitable for the current job.

Here's an example of a covering letter for the CV/résumé for Sara Green (see relevant CV).

  26 Windmill Road

2 May 2007

Ms Kate Roberts
Human Resources Manager
Business Solutions International
Ambassador House
Marcham Way

Dear Ms Roberts

Vacancy for Business Analyst (ref. no: 234/BA)

I am writing in reply to your advert for the above post, which was advertised in The Guardian on Tuesday 30 April 2007, and I enclose my CV in application.

I am currently in the final year of a BA (Hons) course in Business Economics at City University, Bristol, and expect to graduate in June 2007. I have always wanted to pursue a career as an economist within an international environment and have been able to tailor my studies to that end. I have obtained A grades in the Economic Data Analysis and Economics of Business Strategy modules, and am currently completing a dissertation on the growth of e-commerce in the European Union. I am fluent in spoken and written Spanish, having built on my A-level proficiency in that subject when working in Spain and Mexico.

In addition to the qualifications and abilities outlined above, I have kept my IT skills fully up to date (including MS Excel and Access) and am competent in a wide range of business data analysis operations. The post also requires someone with good communications skills who is able to negotiate with corporate clients: I enjoy making new contacts and establishing relationships with a wide range of people, and have successfully liaised with Spanish companies when arranging student activities while I was a Teaching Assistant in Seville.

I feel that the position offered would be ideal in giving me the opportunity to use my education and skills to provide a high level of service for the international client profile you describe. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Sara Green

If you're asked to submit your CV/résumé electronically, the covering letter should be in the form of an email. Here's a sample covering email for the CV for Charles Morton (see relevant CV).

To: recruitmentofficer@amail.com
Subject: Vacancy for Social Worker
Attachment: charlesmortonCV.doc

Dear Sir or Madam

Vacancy for Social Worker (Children's Services), Partington Borough Council

I am writing in reply to your advert for the above post, which was posted on guardianjobs (http:/jobs.guardian.co.uk) on 20 May 2007, and I am attaching my CV for your attention.

As you will see from my CV, I am currently studying for a BA (Hons) in Social Work at Thames University, Swindon, and will be graduating in June 2007. Successful completion of this degree will give me fully qualified social worker status with the GSCC. As an experienced primary school teacher I have a real enthusiasm and flair for working with children and wish to transfer the interpersonal, communication, and motivational skills that I gained in my teaching posts to a new career in social work. In addition, I have a long-standing interest in developing children's potential with regard to sporting activities, and am currently the manager of an under-11s football team.

I feel that as a social worker, I can make a real difference to the lives of the children and families of your area; I would also welcome working for a local authority such as your own, where I would be part of a small and committed team. One of my work placements during my degree course was with a local authority of a similar size, so I am familiar with working in this type of environment.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Yours faithfully

Charles Morton

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