in Job Applications

Writing Covering Emails or Letters – big mistakes to avoid

One of the biggest mistakes candidates often make is to assume that recruitment consultants read covering emails if they are anything more than about 3 paragraphs long. As recruiters we are looking for very specific information in a covering email and have very limited time to read anything at all without heading straight for the CV.

The CV is the main part of your application and very often if I am looking at 20 applications for a vacancy I dont bother reading the covering emails if they dont contain any information I actually need to see in order to progress an application.

The things that stand out in a covering letter are:

1. Salary levels
2. Notice period
3. Confirmation that you fit the job description – ie a commercial solicitor
4. Number of years experience – again to fit the job description
5. Anything outstanding in your career to date – ie exceptional billing levels, a particular case you have worked on, or any links you may have to the recruitment consultant’s client.

The danger of putting anything else is:

1. You dilute the information above.
2. You state something that rules you out if the recruiter has not included the full spec – ie you mention that you have spent your career dealing with transactions up to £5 million when in fact they want someone able to handle £100 million transactions etc..
3. The recruiter does not bother reading it and just looks at the CV, missing a vital point about how much salary you require or your notice period.

Whilst the resulting covering email (example below) probably looks as if someone scrawled it out on the back of a beer mat in about 30 seconds, it is in fact exactly what I as a recruiter would want to see if I got your CV in.

Remember as well that most recruitment consultants are not professionals in the field they recruit for and do not understand a lot of terminology.

Jonathan Fagan

Sample Covering Email/Letter

Dear Sirs,

I am a qualified Solicitor in England & Wales with 2 years PQE. I should like to apply for the residential conveyancing solicitor post, reference x. My extensive experience in development work may be an asset to your client.

I have been working in London for Linckletters Solicitors, a specialist property firm, since 2010 and qualified with a Legal 500 practice in St Albans.

My salary level is currently £32,000 and I am available to start work with 1 months notice.

My interview availability over the next 2 weeks is as follows:

Thank you for considering my application and I look forward to hearing from you.


George Formby

Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal career coach and professional legal CV writer for Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly coaches lawyers looking to join, change tack or leave the legal profession and personally prepares all CVs for clients using our CV writing services. Full details of the Ten-Percent Legal Careers Service can be found at


Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at