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A cover letter (or covering letter) is a document that accompanies your CV when you are applying for jobs. It’s a chance for you to expand on your CV and explain why you’re interested in and qualified for the job.
It’s unlikely that you’ll actually post a job application, but even when emailing an application many employers still prefer you to attach a cover letter and CV, rather than put the content of your cover letter in the body of your email.
Saying that, don’t worry too much. Just do what the employer asks you to do. If they say to apply with a CV and cover letter, attach a CV and cover letter to your email. If you’re unsure, ask us.
Set out your cover letter as a formal letter. That means your name and address on the top right and the address of the employer on the left. Include the job title and/or job application reference. Sign off your letter ‘Yours faithfully’ or ‘Yours sincerely’ depending on who you have addressed the letter to (‘Yours sincerely’ when your letter is addressed to a person, ‘Yours faithfully’ when your letter is addressed to the organisation or ‘Sir/Madam’).
Unless you’re told otherwise, keep your cover letter brief. One side of A4 is enough. Here’s a general structure: