A well-written cover letter can be crucial to ensuring you end up with your name on the interview list, so taking a little time to make sure that the one you submit makes for riveting reading, can be a real benefit.
A cover letter provides an introduction to your resume and serves to give employers a brief snapshot of who you are, what you can offer and why you’re keen to work for them.
If you don’t have much experience in writing successful cover letters, take a look at our helpful guide to find out everything you need to know in the art of writing a cover letter. The following explains what information to include as well as tips on how to generate a cover letter that employers will actually want to read. Remember, the aim of a cover letter is to make yourself memorable, giving them a clear indication of the type of person you are. Cover letters can say a great deal about the person writing them, and because of that, it’s crucial that you try and get it right.
Before You Begin
A sharply written cover letter will grab a potential employer’s attention and qualify you as a worthy contender for the job. So before you write, research! Although job candidates should feel free to customise a cover letter to fit their own style, in general, a cover letter should contain the following information:
Your cover letter should begin politely, addressed to the person named in the job advert. If that’s not stated, do some research, make some calls or send an email. ‘To whom it may concern,’ is polite, but below par. Show your initiative!
Following this, your introductory sentence should state who you are and quote which job you’re applying for.
What Skills Make You Stand Out?
Remember that a cover letter should be no more than one side of an A4 page, so it’s imperative that the information you give is concise, relevant and accurate. The job of the cover letter is to provide an irresistible taste of the talent you have to offer a company. Pick three or four skills you possess which are exactly what the employer is looking for and write a sentence on each which includes an example of how you have used them previously.
If an employer is advertising a post for which team working skills are essential, you might wish to write something like, ‘I am an enthusiastic team player and value the opportunity to work with others towards the achievement of common objectives. In my current team, I lead a recent project to install new monitoring software for the department. This was successfully achieved on time and within the agreed budget.’ Obviously, the specific skill and experience will need to reflect your particular strengths, but this example illustrates the type of text which might work well in a covering letter.
Value your Employer
Everybody wants to be considered unique and special, including employers! It’s important to write a line or two about why you consider the position to be so attractive. Take some time to read up on the company and put together some text on why you want to work for them. Remember that employers want candidates with a genuine interest and enthusiasm for the work (many employers love what they do and want their employees to share their passion), so reflect this in your covering letter.
10 Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter
Customise every letter
Make certain that you use a customised cover letter for every application. Do not use a standard form letter, the same for every position you apply for.
Address your cover letter to the person that will read it
If at all possible, address your cover letter to the person responsible for hiring at the firm you are applying to (this can generally be found on the job listing). If you do not know who they are, address the letter to the Employment Manager – never use ‘To Whom It May Concern’; this is too general and gives the impression that you have recycled a cover letter from a previous application.
Format your letter correctly
If you are writing an actual cover letter (as opposed to simply filling out an online form) make certain that you lay the letter out, using the correct format. Start with your contact information (address, phone, email address) at the top left, followed by the date and name of the person you are writing to. Follow this with the contents of your letter and then the salutation.
Follow conventional keyboarding practices
Use a size 11 or 12 font, preferably a simple one like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri (the standard font in recent versions of Microsoft Word). Use single spacing with a line between paragraphs. Do not indent your paragraphs, but keep them against the left margin.
Write clearly & concisely
Keep your cover letter to a single page. If it grows bigger than this, then you need to go through and prune it, taking out any unnecessary information or language.
Look closely at the advertised job position
This will tell you what the employer is actually looking for. In your cover letter describing how you match up to the skill and experience requirements of the position.
Make your cover letter interesting
Briefly, tell your story. Mention any mutual contacts you have – it does make a difference if you can say, “Jim Smith recommended that I get in touch with you”.
Double-check that you have used perfect English
No spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. Get someone else to read it for you if need be. You can use Word’s spelling and grammar checkers to help you (making certain that you have changed the language to Australian English first) but don’t totally rely on them – they are not perfect.
Use an appropriate subject name
If you make your application by email make certain that you use an appropriate subject name. It is a good idea for the body of your email to include a short message including your name and the job title that you are applying for, with a reference to your cover letter and resume being attached.
Always submit a cover letter given the chance
Even if you apply fully online you are likely to be given the chance to upload a cover letter. Do so, making certain that it follows all these guides. Unless the application specifically requests .docx, always convert your cover letter’s format to .pdf – this eliminates the chance of any text on the page shifting when the file is opened on different versions of Microsoft Word. Make certain that everything else you type in the online forms is also spelt correctly and is grammatically correct. Most importantly of all, remember to actually attach the documents to the email!
End with a call to action
The goal of sending your cover letter and resume is to secure a job interview – and then get the chance to secure the position.
So end your cover letter with a call to action.
You can ask for an interview, indicate your willingness to meet and discuss the position, or offer to provide more information upon request. Don’t just say a simple thank you – give them a reason to keep the conversation with you going. This is the part where you attract and keep a potential employer’s attention. You are proving to them why you should get the job over someone else.
What are you waiting for?