A guide on how to write a cover letter
The Purpose of a Cover Letter
You might be applying for a specific, advertised job, or you might be contacting a potential employer to see if they have any vacancies. Either way, your cover letter needs to:
- Introduce you
- Mention the job (or kind of job) you're applying for (or looking for)
- Match your skills and experiences with the skills and experiences required by the job
- Encourage the reader to read your resume
- Finish with a call to action (e.g., requesting an interview or asking to meet)
How to write a cover letter
Each application should be tailored to suit the job you’re applying for and demonstrate you’re a ‘fit’. To ensure your cover letter/email introduction isn’t ignored go through the job advertisement and underline the keywords used to describe the skills, training and experience being sought. Search through your own career history for specific examples of how you can demonstrate you have what the employer is looking for.
For example the advertisement might say: "This position requires an outgoing person with demonstrated capacity to work in a team". The keywords here are "outgoing", "demonstrated" and "team". Show you meet these essential criteria to increase your chances of an interview.
In essence, cover letters are selling your resume and as such need to grab the reader's attention and make them want to read on. This is usually done by highlighting your "Unique Selling Points" - ie. the qualities that set you apart. It should be written so that the reader cannot possibly pass it over without opening the resume document itself.
Our view is that your cover letter should complement your CV by highlighting the most relevant aspects relating to the position. We suggest making a draft, then when you are satisfied that it reads well and will get the reader interested, get a second opinion by asking a friend to review it.
If you are not sure of the qualities or competencies required, try to work out what they are likely to be. Why not talk to your recruiter or consider a similar position you have seen in operation elsewhere?
In summary, while there is demand for candidates in a wide range of sectors right now and even skills shortages in a number of areas, competition for good roles always remains strong and the preference from employers is for candidates who can clearly demonstrate that they meet the criteria outlined in job ads and position descriptions.
Tips for writing a great cover letter
- Start by talking about what you would bring to the company, role and opportunity.
- Keep it succinct and get to the point.
- Link your skills and work experience to why you are suitable for the job by including a few achievements from your last two roles that demonstrate how you added value to your employer’s organisation.
- Demonstrate why you are the right person for the vacancy by being clear on how you can potentially solve the position's problems and challenges.
- State what your motivation is behind your application.
- Don’t repeat your resume. Use your cover letter to show personality, curiosity, and an interest in the field you are applying to work in.
- Close the letter strongly by explaining briefly how your experience and skills will help you excel at the job.
Email introduction/cover letter checklist:
- One A4 page, well spaced.
- Be sure to make your letter clear and concise. Use strong verbs which demonstrate action and accomplishments, such as "organise" and "supervise".
- Name, Title and Address
- Find out the details of the contact person (including all spelling) in the organisation and address your letter accordingly. Don't forget to include your address, phone number and email.
- This includes an introduction and identification of the position. For example, commence with the reference number, followed by your reason for applying and a summary of your unique skills/qualifications.
- Identify your skills, experience and attributes that match what the employer wants. Look for keywords in the advertisement and address the main elements.
- Proof read very carefully! Essentially you need to draw attention to you and away from others, but not by misspelling the company's name! Proofing is so important; you may even benefit from someone else double checking your cover letter for you.