You’ve seen the perfect job for you and they’ve asked for a covering letter with your CV. What is a covering letter, and what on earth should you say in it? Why can’t you just send in your CV?

Your CV provides general information to anyone about your skills and experiences. The covering letter tells the employer why you are the right person for that particular job. So read the job advert really carefully so you can work out exactly what they are looking for, and why you would suit the position.

Don’t forget to include aspects of your personality that make you suited to the job, as well as your formal qualifications. If you are applying to be a nurse, describe how you are a caring person, and that you have looked after elderly family members well. But you don’t need to tell your employer all about your choir prizes. That you would save for a covering letter applying for a job that entails music or singing – in which case that is the right place to highlight this skill.

Make yourself sound good, but also be honest. Anyone can list off hundreds of adjectives and describe themselves as completely fantastic, so give some backing to what you say, such as examples of what you have done that proves you are a ‘self-starter’, ‘driven’, an ‘independent worker’. What have you started? How have you proved that you are driven, or that you are an independent worker? Give a few details.

Divide your ideas into paragraphs, even if these paragraphs are very short. Try to keep the letter on one page if you can.

Make sure that you check your letter very very carefully for any mistakes. Employers get many applications, and your letter is more personal than your CV, and so employers read these letters with great interest. They may decide not to ask you for an interview if you have lots of mistakes in your letter, as it shows you are careless, and don’t pay attention to detail. And every employer wants someone who checks their work!

Usually today employers ask you to send your CV and covering letter by email. Write your covering letter in a separate document – not as part of your email. So you attach your CV, a covering letter, and copies of any certificates they require. In your email you just need to write a sentence saying that you are applying for the position, and that you have attached a covering letter, your CV, and whatever else they require.

Your covering letter is a formal letter, so you need to include your address as well as the address of the possible employer. (Look on the internet to see how to lay out a formal letter). If the advert had the name of a person to apply to, write the letter to them.

Also, it needs to be in formal language – so no ‘Howzit’s’ or ‘Hi ya’s!

A good idea at the end is to read the letter aloud to see that it flows well. Think of who will be reading it – try to imagine the picture they will get of you from your letter, and if they will understand what you mean.

Examples of covering letters

16 Sagwiqi Road
Cape Town

5 January 2018
The Manager
Administrative Department
False Bay College
Main Road

Dear Madam

Application for job as receptionist

I wish to apply for the job as a receptionist at your College, as advertised in False Bay Echo, 21 December 2017.

I have completed matric, and I have also completed a Computer Literacy Course at Hardwork College.

I am interested in the job because I enjoy working with people, I have an out-going personality and like working in a team, and always enjoyed doing group projects. My communications skills are good and I am fluent in English and Xhosa and have a good telephone voice. I understand Afrikaans. I am well-organized – at the College many people came to me for notes because I filed them efficiently and never lost them. I also cope well in a crisis.

I have attached copies of my CV, ID, my National Senior Certificate and my Computer Literacy Certificate.

I am available for an interview at any time.

Yours faithfully
(Miss) Nosimphiwe G Soyizwapi
083 8765432

Example 2

27 Steve Biko Street
Cape Town
Phone : 083 8765432

5 January 2018
Art Director
Cape Town Carnival
Cape Town

Dear Ms Mac Pherson

Application for position of artist/craftsman on Carnival Float-building Team

As we discussed on the phone, I would like to apply for a job on the Carnival Float Building Team.

I have completed matric (and one of my subjects was Art). I have also got a Chrysalis Academy Diploma. I have worked with a friend who has taught me welding, which I learnt quickly.

I am interested in the job because I would enjoy working under your direction as part of a creative group. I enjoy working with my hands, and am good at working out how to fix things around the house. I am fluent in English and Xhosa, and work well with different kinds of people, and enjoyed getting know people different from me during my time at Chrysalis.

I have also attached copies of my CV, National Senior Certificate, and my Chrysalis Academy Diploma.

Yours sincerely
Sibhosiso Rexe


A final word: DO NOT LIE! At the very least, you will set yourself up for failure if you don’t have the skills you said you had. And if the employer investigates, you can get into deep trouble. A new law has been passed which means that you could even be sentenced and jailed for lying about your qualifications. So however tempting it may be to dress up your story, make sure you never do it so that it is dishonest or fraudulent. One of the most valued qualities in employees is integrity. Make sure you keep yours intact!