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How to write a Cover Letter that wins jobs

I often get asked if cover letters are necessary or important in the job application process. And the answer is always YES!

Most job ads require that you submit a cover letter and resume. So that's a no-brainer.

However even if it's not specified as required, it's always a good idea to send in a letter as it's another opportunity to sell you, your skills and achievements - helping them see that you are the perfect person for the role!

Image of a resume and a woman typing a cover letter on a laptop computer
A cover letter can be just as important as a resume

So, how do you write a job application cover letter that sells you succinctly?

(Because trust me, no-one wants to read a long, boring essay about you.)

1. Cover letter basics
  • Keep it short. One page is best unless you are responding directly to the job key selection criteria.

  • Design. Use a clean, readable font that matches your resume (your resume header with your name and contact details can be your letterhead).

  • Address it to the right person. Find out the name and job title of the person you need to address the letter to. If you can't work this out from the job ad or by looking it up on LinkedIn or the company website, then call up to ask.

  • Tone: Try to write in a tone that suits the organisation. For example, an application for a government role would be more formal in tone than one for a creative start-up.

2. Strong first paragraph
  • Summarise who you are in a sentence or two. You can amend your resume's professional profile for this purpose, but don't replicate it word for word.

  • Express excitement for the role and organisation and state why you and your skills would be a great match.

3. A bit of history but keep it achievements focused!
  • In the following 1-2 paragraphs you should briefly summarise your career background, highlighting how your current and perhaps one other role you have undertaken makes you the perfect candidate.

  • Highlight at least one achievement from your current or previous role.

  • However limit the detail to high level information. They can read further information in your resume and you can tell them more at the job interview.

4. Sell yourself!
  • Close your letter with bullet points that sell your top three skills or unique selling points.

  • Make sure these align with the most important job key selection criteria.

  • This allows someone who is scanning applications to quickly see that you have the skills to do the job.

5. Read the instructions

Make sure you carefully read the job application instructions and follow them.

For example there may be instructions around cover letter length, whether or not a key selection criteria response is required, and whether or not specific questions or information must be addressed in the letter.

This sounds simple, but recruiters have told me that most applicants don't follow the instructions!

I hope these tips help you to craft an amazing cover letter.

If you need more help writing a winning cover letter, download my Cover Letter Template as part of the Not Just a Resume Template program.
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