The Dos and Don'ts of Covering Letters

Published on: 20 Jan 2018

Your covering letter is a vital piece of personal professional marketing that should accompany your CV on every application. Its purpose is to give you the chance not only to introduce yourself but also to expand upon and strengthen the information provided in your CV. By following our guide to the dos and don’ts of covering letters, you will be able to ensure that you have made every effort to guarantee that your next job application results in obtaining that much-coveted interview.

Cover Letters


  • Do explain why you have applied for the job
    Your covering letter should start with a paragraph outlining why you chose to apply for the position. What particularly interests you about the company? Why does the role particularly suit you? What makes you the perfect fit for the position?
  • Do tailor your covering letter for each individual position
    Ideally, both your covering letter and your CV should be specifically tailored for each position you apply for. By taking a little more time and effort to do this, employers will be able to see that you are expressly interested in them and that you are willing to go the extra mile. By creating a tailored covering letter you will also have the opportunity to pick out skills and attributes that are particularly relevant to that company and position.
  • Do show that you have researched the company
    Employers often state that what impressed them the most about a candidate’s covering letter was the effort that the individual went to in researching the company. It is important to get a feel for the company’s ethos and personality, and tailor your covering letter accordingly. Take a look at their website, their about us page and mention any information about the company that you feel could be relevant.
  • Do express genuine interest in the company
    Employers want to work with candidates who are passionate about the role advertised. By expressing to the employer why this particular company resonates with you personally, you show how well you could fit into the company dynamics. Using your research on the company, pick out key information about the potential employer that strikes a chord with you.
  • Do focus on the specific skills and experience which are relevant for the role advertised 
    We recommend that you think of your covering letter as a sales pitch for your CV. You should therefore use your covering letter to pick out the specific skills and experience which make you the strongest candidate for the position. Refer back to the employer’s job description and ensure that you highlight every point that the potential employer has asked for.
  • Do explain how you will be of benefit to the firm
    Employers want to employ candidates who will benefit their company by bringing with them extra initiative, innovation, professionalism or efficiency. Take a look at your past employment or education, and use examples of your achievements to demonstrate your value.
  • Do keep your covering letter concise
    Your covering letter should consist of around three to four paragraphs. Employers often do not have the time to spend on reading lengthy applications, so the key is to keep your letter short and succinct.
  • Do make it stand out from the crowd
    Try to consider your potential competition when writing your covering letter. What are your unique selling points that will make you stand out from the pile of applications and help to ensure that you are offered an interview?
  • Do proofread your covering letter
    When applying for a role, especially if it is for an administrative role where attention to detail is key, your covering letter provides you with an opportunity to showcase your excellent document production skills. We highly recommend using this to your advantage, making sure that you check for any mistakes in spelling, grammar or formatting.


  • Don’t talk about your current role if it is in a different field
    Although it is important to show that you are professionally experienced, your current position will interest employers only if it is relevant to them. Instead, try to focus primarily on the key information which applies directly to the role offered.
  • Don’t write a repeat of your CV
    Your covering letter should not simply be a rewrite of your CV. Although it is important to refer to and expand upon the skills and experience you have outlined within your CV, your covering letter should be distinct and offer the employer a more detailed and personal approach to why you are suited to the position.
  • Don’t make your letter too casual
    Although your covering letter should be less formal than your CV, it is important to retain professionalism in every piece of communication you have with your employers. It is important to remember that in the future you could be corresponding on behalf of the company, so employers will take note of those who show exemplary communication skills. Take your time to write a personal but polite, professional and detailed letter.
  • Don’t focus on your attributes over your professional skills
    Employers will be looking for practical evidence of your proficiency. Ensure that you shift the balance of your covering letter towards your tangible skills rather than your personal characteristics.
  • Don’t use generic wording like “a good team player”
    Many people tend to use generic buzzwords and phrases within their covering letter, which is precisely the reason why you should not do so! It is important that you are able to uniquely articulate your value so that you stand out from the crowd.
  • Don’t forget to include a covering letter – or your CV will not be looked at!
    Covering letters are a vital and expected part of the job application process. Recruiters are not likely to look at your CV if you haven’t taken the time or care to include one. Including a covering letter  could make the difference between your application falling short and you being offered the interview of a lifetime.

Article written by The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs. The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) is a professional body who are dedicated to your career every step of the way. Whether you would like to become a Legal Secretary or you would like to advance your Legal Secretary career, they are there to support you through your journey.  For more information visit