JOHN MEEHAN, EDITOR OF HULL DAILY MAIL AND EAST RIDING MAIL
The basics are that it should be succinct and relevant. I want to know very quickly what relevant experience the applicant has. I want to know why they specifically applied for this position and I want an indication of genuine interest in the vacancy.
An unusual approach sometimes works, but it has to be good. If the applicant hasn’t much experience, they’ve got to stand out. The best letter I’ve received since being editor was from a prospective trainee photographer who wrote his letter in the style of a press release. He had few qualifications, but his approach was so unusual and so cheeky that I had to have him.
The worst thing you can do is misspell my name – and that happens frequently – or misspell any words or introduce literals.
Don’t be too familiar. If I know someone, then I would understand if they called me by my first name, but if I don’t, they shouldn’t presume to use it.
This happens a lot now, because e-mails have made everything so informal. I’m astonished that people can be so flippant – they stand no chance of getting a job.
The letter should be one page long, because it’s only an application. You can give the detail in the CV. Keep it simple – plain A4, no graphics, easy to read, and leave out the bells and whistles.
MONTY WATKINS, EDITOR OF MINIWORLD
It has to be to the point and succinct. I get a lot of covering letters from graduates and GCSE students with typographical errors that could have been fixed by a spellchecker. I had one with a surname spelt in two ways. Those letters go immediately into the rejection pile.
I also look for honesty – is it a first jobber, a second jobber? What is your experience? A lot of letters seem to be exaggerated, but as a potential employer, I don’t need for them to say they met Margaret Thatcher while working for Knitting World.
Specialist interest helps – if not a deep knowledge, then at least a curiosity, an empathy with our readers.
If it’s a cold call, then a one-sided letter and a reduced CV will do. If you’re answering a job ad, I’d expect two sides and a properly detailed CV.
In terms of presentation, the applicant should really have an instinct for that kind of thing. If you’re applying for a position at Country Life, which is obviously quite posh, you have an idea of the quality they would expect from you.
DAVID JENNINGS, EDITOR AT ANGLIA NEWS EAST
I look for exemplary spelling and punctuation, brevity, clarity, and an understanding of facts. A single sheet of A4 will do. Some people send me letters in six-point text, which is almost illegible.
I don’t like superlative phrases such as “I am the person you must employ”. Claims of unparalleled brilliance are unlikely to go down well. And don’t pass off work experience as on-the-job work experience.