Cover Letters 101

Job applications are all about selling YOU to the employer.


If you imagine your resume is your sales page, then your cover letter is the ad that pops up while you are scrolling through Facebook, enticing the reader over to read your sales page.


Now, imagine that you are recruiting and need to read 100 job applications. It's unlikely that you would read every single word in great detail. You are more likely to scan the cover letter for key words.


A clear and concise cover letter for a job could be the thing that lands you an interview. You need to grab the reader's attention.

And that's why you need to make it super easy for the prospective employer to see that you are a good fit for for the job.


How? Ensure you follow these easy steps to write a cover letter that will entice the reader to read your entire job application, and ultimately win you a job interview.


1. Cover letter basics

  • Keep it short. One page is best unless you are responding directly to the 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).

For more information on design check out this post called All About Looks.

  • 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 three bullet points that sell your top three skills or unique selling points.

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

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

You could put in something like: "If selected for this role I would immediately contribute:

  • Strong administration skills with...

  • Exceptional interpersonal skills, using a collaborative approach to...

  • Knowledge and experience in (specialist area)..."


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.


Ensuring you read the instructions and follow them carefully will show your attention to detail and make it much more likely you will be selected for a job interview.


So there you have it! A cover letter that stands out from the crowd and will ensure the employer is desperate to meet you.

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