Skip to content The Open University

Types of application letter

  • Speculative letters are sent as part of a speculative application, together with a CV.
  • Covering letters accompany an application form or CV for an advertised job vacancy.
  • A letter of application is sometimes sent, rather than an application form or CV, in which case the letter should include the information you would put in a CV but presented in sentences and paragraphs.

Speculative letter

A speculative letter should sound positive and enthusiastic. It should be clearly structured to cover

  • the kind of work you're looking for
  • why you want to work for that organisation in particular
  • why you are suitable - emphasise your relevant skills, experience and personal qualities by highlighting particular information in your enclosed CV.
  • tailored to the specific organisation rather than a standard letter used for a number of speculative applications
  • addressed to a named individual. Telephone the organisation and ask if you're not sure who to send it to.

Try to offer a number of options in your letter. If they have no vacancies, could they keep your details on file? Are you interested in unpaid work experience or an information interview as well? If so, say so.

Covering letter

Your covering letter is as important as the CV or application form it accompanies. It's your opportunity to sell yourself to the employer and say why your CV or application is worth reading. Use it to highlight your enthusiasm and suitability for the job and emphasise your strengths.

It should be clearly structured to cover

  • what you're applying for - the job title and where you saw the advert
  • why you're applying to them, why the job interests you and why you want to work for that organisation in particular
  • why you are suitable - emphasise your relevant skills, experience and personal qualities by elaborating on the information in your CV or application form. Make sure you match your skills to the person specification, and use the same key words where possible. If you have a disability or a criminal record, you may want to use your covering letter to disclose this to an employer. You can find more information on the Equality and Diversity page or our Career Planning and Jobseeking workbook.

Your letter should

  • be typed and no more than one side of A4
  • refer to the job title and reference, as given in the application information
  • refer to the most relevant parts of your CV, but not repeat general detail to be found there.

Remember to

  • end positively and enthusiastically
  • use the spell check facility on your computer
  • carefully proofread the letter for errors a spell checker won't pick up
  • ask a friend to check it for you.