Writing Cover Letters

Monday, January 27, 2014

What is in a cover letter?
A cover letter allows you to express your particular interest in a job and organisation, and in turn highlight your main skills and attributes. It also allows you to explain why you are interested in the role, detail your enthusiasm for the work and the company and demonstrate to how you feel you would make a contribution. A cover letter is an additional means of demonstrating your ability, skills and interest to the prospective employer,

How to write a cover letter
The content of your cover letter will really depend on the type of job to which you are applying – whether it is a response to an advert or whether its is a speculative letter (ie. when the employer hasn't advertised a specific job). This can then be used as a template four future applications.

Cover letter tips
Make sure your cover letter is legible. Unless otherwise requested, you should type your letter. Keep a copy of your cover letter - you'll need it to prepare for the interview you'll (hopefully) be invited to. It is your responsibility to follow up your letter with a phone call within a few days - especially when you're contacting an employer on a speculative basis. This demonstrates that you're the sort of enthusiastic self-starter most employers want.

Addresses, date, greeting and title
Put your name and address, as well as the recipient's name and address at the top of your cover letter. Sometimes the recipient's name doesn't appear on the job advertisement. It's worthwhile finding out the full name of the right person to address your letter to, rather than using the greeting 'Dear Sir/Madam'. It's a good idea to include a title for your cover letter, so that a busy reader knows at a glance what your letter concerns. Underline your title or begin it with 'Re.' (short for 'Regarding'), and include the job reference number (if there is one).

Opening paragraph
In this first paragraph you introduce yourself and clearly explain the opportunity you are seeking. Pretend you're talking to the employer directly. How would you introduce yourself? How would you summarise your reason for writing? What about the job you want? Avoid using long words and complicated phrases. Stick to language you would normally use when talking to an employer.

Middle paragraphs
Here you demonstrate that:

  • your knowledge, skills and experience meet the selection criteria for the job
  • you understand the employer's expectations of people who work for them
  • you can make a significant contribution to the organisation.

This section of your cover letter is critical and dictates how impressed the employer is by your written application. You must do your research to know precisely which criteria to address. You have to present yourself in the best possible light, without exaggerating.

Limit the length of your letter to one page, as employers don't have time to read more. Present your information in a way that's easy to understand. Use short paragraphs to present you information. It would be as acceptable to use bullet points instead, or other methods of highlighting the criteria of most interest to the employer.


Last paragraph and sign-off
This section is where you express your desire for an interview. You should also reiterate your contact details. Try to come across as enthusiastic and confident. It's important that you show you believe you are worth an interview.