The Confidence Trick: Nailing the career break cover letter

Confidence Trick

If you’re planning a return to work and applying for a new job, make sure you have a good career break cover letter prepared and ready to go.

I’m a fan of the covering letter – as long as it is well-written and well-presented.  It serves many purposes – it can show you have good written communication and presentation skills; that you’ve taken the time to consider the role and how you match the job requirements, and how your skills and experience would benefit the employer. It also lets you balance the more formal CV with a nice ‘user-friendly’ introduction.  Plus, importantly, if you’re returning to work following a career break, it enables you to introduce this in a positive way.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe career breaks should be treated as a fact of life – and this is for both sexes. There are many reasons why career breaks are needed at different life stages and lengthy explanations or justifications should not be necessary.

A career break cover letter enables you to give a brief explanation of your career break, balanced with your aims and aspirations now you are returning to work.  If you did happen to gain any additional experience or qualifications on your career break, mention these – but only if they are relevant.  If not just keep the information succinct and informative.   

Some companies using online recruiting have dispensed with covering letters, requiring only a CV, so if the job ad doesn’t allow you to upload one, then there’s nothing you can do – just make sure you’ve done a good job on your CV to tailor it to the role and match the keywords in the job spec. If a covering letter is optional – my advice is to always include it.

My recommendation for a good career break cover letter is four paragraphs:  

Introduction: This is a short two-liner where you state the reason for your letter – i.e. the role you are applying for.  

Use the second and third paragraphs to show how your skills, strengths and experience match what the employer is looking for.  Approximately four to give lines in each is fine but if you’re stretched to expand this to two paragraphs. One good paragraph is better than two average ones.  Either of these sections could be used to clarify a career break.

The final paragraph is where you pull it together with a powerful statement that sells your potential, such as: “I am confident that my skills and experience would enable me to make a positive contribution to your company and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these with you in an interview.”   Avoid any clichés or assumptions at the end such as “I look forward to meeting you in the near future” – no one falls for that anymore. 

Good luck!

Sandie Reed is a Career Development Coach who specialises in supporting and encouraging women to maximise their potential. You can contact Sandie via her website or follow her on Facebook at @sandiereedcoaching

Sandie is offering a FREE covering letter (worth £12.50) with all new CVs she writes to the end of March. If you would like a professionally written CV and a free covering letter, please email for more details.

Sandie also co-runs Back to Work Workshops for women looking to return to work after a career break – details can be found at  


  1. This is such a good idea! I am currently self employed and taking a career break, so this will be helpful when I do return to my career at some point in the future 🙂

  2. The career break part on an application form always gets me! I don’t really write much at all but thankfully it hasn’t impacted on my job roles in the past.

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