Cover Letters – Two Minute Tour – Dawn Constance Mulvaney

CVs are often considered the most important part of a job application, but all your CV does is list your past experience and your qualifications.

As an Awarding Organisation brand, CACHE obviously believes that qualifications are valuable, but they’re not always the deciding factor in whether you get a job, or even an interview!

Like most people, when I started applying for jobs online, I was tempted by ‘one click applications’ and templates.  I’ve definitely sent my fair share of two line cover letters where I told an employer which vacancy that I was interested in and that I had included my CV alongside the letter.

I’ll never make that mistake again.

We’ve all been told that cover letters should be individual to the job and that templates should be adapted to each application, but the vagueness of that advice led me to use a template and change only the name of the job I was applying for and my name at the bottom.

When applying for lots of jobs, writing a new cover letter for each application can seem like a lot of work and, slowing the pace of applications and applying for less jobs every week can seem counter-productive, but, depending on the kind of work you’re looking for, it can be make or break.

Cover letters are almost always a case of quality over quantity.

When applying for jobs where you’ll be working with people, especially where building trust and relationships are a core part of your role, your personality is really important.

In a time where employers can access levy funding to train people ‘on the job’, who you are (including what you’ve learned during your career and your reasons for having completed your qualifications in the first place) are more important than ever.

Does your CV tell companies who you are?  Mine certainly doesn’t!

Although your employment history might help an employer to understand your experience and skillset, it’s not a good reflection of your personality or the things that you care about.   That’s one of the reasons why your cover letter is so important.

This letter is your chance to tell the employer who you are and how you share their values.

It’s your reply to their advert.

To do this well, it can help to think about the job advert and specifically, the job specification if they’ve provided one, like a letter that you’re replying to.  This means working through the advert, answering every point.

It can help to annotate a printed copy of the job advert first, a bit like this;

Then, you can work your way down the annotations, writing these into letter format, like this;

Using templates can help keep your letter on track, or give you some structure, but you should try to sound like you in your writing, so that the employer can find out a little about who you are.

Employers read hundreds of applications a week when they’re advertising for staff, so it also really helps if your letter doesn’t sound like everyone else’s!

I hope that this all makes sense and that it helps, but if you have any questions or would like some support with your letter, or advice, please email us at [email protected] or use the comment section below to ask any questions.


Dawn is CACHE Alumni’s Editor and has worked for CACHE and NCFE for three years.  Before joining NCFE, Dawn worked in various roles as an Employment Advisor and as an Advisor on the Young People’s advice service ‘Connexions Direct’, which became the 13-19 provider of the National Careers Service.  Dawn has also worked in Homelessness and with School Refusers, offering support with job applications, training and employment.  You can find Dawn on Twitter, tweeting about CACHE Alumni, as @dreadlockdawnie