July 29, 2014, by Beth Dawson

Lost in translation: what not to say in a UK covering letter

Thinking of looking for a job in the UK now you’ve graduated? Not only will you have to take into account visas and how many hours you can work (contact the International Office for more advice about this), you’ll also need to be aware of UK conventions when applying for jobs. 

Things that may impress at home may not come across so well to a UK recruiter. So make sure you don’t trip up in your covering letter by avoiding these common mistakes. 

‘I am applying for this position…’/’I am applying to become a member of your team/staff/company’

Many companies, especially large graduate employers, will be recruiting for more than one position at any given time. An employer could misunderstand what role you’re applying for or could assume you’ve sent off a generic application. This will be likely to create a bad first impression that will be hard to counter – no matter how tailored and well-researched the main body of your covering letter is.

Instead, in your introduction clearly state what position you’re applying for and where you discovered the vacancy. Similarly, if you were referred by someone inside the company, don’t be afraid to mention this.

‘I will gladly undertake any task I might be assigned and I will work very hard to do my best’

Saying that you ‘will undertake any task’ won’t make you stand out, as every candidate will be expected to carry out the responsibilities of the role fully. Highlighting your ability to work is not adding anything to your covering letter. Think like an advertiser and decide what USPs (unique selling points) you have to offer the company.

Likewise, although you’ll want to show you’re a hard worker, doing your ‘best’ has connotations of trying hard, but not reaching success. Try to use an example of when you have come across a challenging situation and achieved a positive result, to demonstrate these skills without coming across negatively. If you’re unsure of the way something may be interpreted, seek a second opinion from a friend or family member.

‘As you can see from my CV, I have previously undertaken similar duties to the ones required for this post’

This is too vague and doesn’t emphasise your skills and experiences. Don’t worry about repeating what’s on your CV, since in your covering letter you’ll be able to expand upon your examples in more detail.

To decide which examples you want to use, look at the person specification and job description if they’re available to get an idea of what the employer is looking for. Then refer to examples that demonstrate that you have the skills you want to see. Bring your ideas to life with statistics such as the number of people that attended an event you organised or the number of sales you made.

‘I look forward to hearing from you regarding an interview.’

You’ll want to sound eager to meet the employer and willing to attend an interview, however the phrase above comes across as you already thinking that you’ve secured an interview or may seem too pushy.

An alternative way to end a covering letter would be to state your availability: are you completely flexible? Are you unable to make any of the dates in the period when the employer mentioned they want to conduct interviews?

If you want to find out more about applying for a job in the UK, read our ‘Covering letters: UK conventions’ leaflet and visit our ‘Working in the UK’ webpage. You can also book an appointment with a member of our team, who can look over your application and offer you advice.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers AdviceInternational Students