Writing a good covering letter could make all the difference to your job application. With so many candidates to choose from, first impressions are really important, so it’s crucial to get the covering letter right.
Education careers expert John Howson recommends beginning the letter with a powerful statement: “Job applicants need to provoke the reader’s interest,” he says. “However, what you leave out is just as important as what you put in, in order to keep the letter succinct and punchy.”
“The competitive nature of the teaching profession means first impressions are imperative,” says James Innes, managing director of The CV Centre. “Many applications may be judged solely on the strength of the covering letter.”
The length of the covering letter is normally specified in the job advertisement. However, if there is no limit set, your letter shouldn’t be longer than two sides of A4 and should be easy to read. Use a standard font and break the main body into chunks so it can be skim-read.
Get the formalities right
If your covering letter needs to be written and attached, rather than included in an online form, you need to get the formal stuff right.
Include your name and address on the right-hand side. On the left, put the date, name of recipient (if you’re unsure, telephone the school and check the spelling) and the address of the school. It’s better to be accused of being too formal rather than not formal enough, so begin with “Dear Mr/Ms…”.
Start with a strong statement
Your covering letter should begin with a strong statement outlining why you want to apply for the job and why at this particular school. For example, if the school has won a number of awards in certain areas, you could mention this. Or, if you have the skills and experience to address some of the problems the school faces, then highlight them here.
It’s important to open with something that will grab the reader’s attention. Employers probably won’t have time to read every word, so it’s important you start strong.
Show you know the school
Having touched on some school specifics in your opening statement, now is your chance to really go to town. Show that you’ve done your research and you genuinely think you’re a good fit for the role.
How does the school’s vision align with your own? Look at the language the school uses in the job description and try to include a few buzzwords.
Pick out some CV highlights
Don’t assume that your CV will automatically get read. Pull out some key achievements and link them to specific requirements in the job description.
As well as the career aspects, don’t forget to highlight any volunteer work or personal interests that have relevance. This is your chance to show your well-rounded credentials and elevate yourself above the other applicants.
Go out on a high
If your potential employer has got to the bottom of your covering letter, you’re in with a chance. Finish with something positive and upbeat. Let them know when you’ll be available for interview (and for work), and that you look forward to hearing from them.
Before you hit ‘send’
Make sure that you have carefully checked for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. This is a common complaint from school HR departments, yet is easy to fix. It might be useful to have the opinion of someone who is already in the job role that you are applying for, so don’t be afraid to ask a friend or colleague to read over your letter.