35. What is a cover letter?

Source: seek.com.au, 26 August 2015

A cover letter is usually the first point of contact a candidate has with a prospective employer for a job application. It is usually sent accompanying a resume or CV as a way of introduction. A well-written cover letter should summarise and condense the most recent and relevant points in your resume and how your skills and experience relate to the role you are applying for. It should also illustrate your written communication skills.

What to include in your cover letter

  1. Personal details. Begin with your personal details, including your full name, phone number and email address.
  2. Opening your cover letter. Open your cover letter with a brief introduction of yourself and your purpose for writing. If responding to a job advertisement, include any references such as the position title or job number, or state how you found the job ad. If you’re “cold contacting” an organisation of interest, mention the type of job you’d be hoping to land there.
  3. Highlight your skills, experience and qualifications. If they are aligned with the role, mention your career goals. Always tailor your cover letter to only include the attributes that would be beneficial to the role you’re applying for. Use real life examples to discuss a couple of your most recent and relevant roles and achievements, and how these experiences would offer value to the role you’re applying for. Demonstrate that you have understood the job description and researched the company in this section.
  4. Additional selling points: Discuss any other selling points such as volunteer work, positive personality traits or strengths that would be relevant to the role. These may include your interpersonal skills, ability to take initiative or technological savvy.
  5. Closing your cover letter: Conclude the cover letter by referring to your resume or any other attachment. Express your desire for an interview, or for cold contact cover letters, mention when you plan on making a follow up call. Close the letter with a positive note of appreciation for the employer’s time.

What to exclude in your cover letter

  • Salary expectations or previous salaries earned. This information should be included in your SEEK Profile
  • Generic content that isn’t relevant to the particular role
  • Any cliché phrases that will make your cover letter blend in with others

How long should a cover letter be?

A cover letter should be no more than one page. In this case, less is best.

Format and style of a cover letter

  • Match the font and type size to your resume’s style
  • Write in an enthusiastic and polite tone of voice, and inject your personality into it
  • Ensure all your spelling and grammar is 100% correct
  • Include paragraphs and spacing to enable optimal legibility


 

Cover letters

Source: Monash University

A cover letter is generally the first point of contact with a prospective employer. It needs to be engaging and show the employer that you have the skills to do the job. A good cover letter can help you get a job interview by convincing an employer that you are what they are looking for and it will also demonstrate your written communication skills. Your letter should:

  • include a brief introduction about yourself and state the purpose for writing
  • highlight relevant skills, qualifications and experience to be considered for a job interview.
  • give real life examples (meeting minimum selection criteria).
  • target your letter to be specific about the role.
  • inject your personal style into your writing to stand out above the competition.
Include contact details
Your details

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone and mobile numbers
  • Email address
Employer’s details

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Address
Opening and closing the letter
Employer’s name known

  • Dear Mr/Mrs (name)
  • Yours sincerely (your signature and name)
Name unknown

  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • Yours faithfully (your signature and name)

Content

Paragraph Details
1. Purpose of your letter If replying to an ad, include the job title and reference/job number (if known). You can state how you found out about the job. Sound enthusiastic about wanting the job to capture the employer’s attention.

Writing a letter of enquiry (sometimes known as cold contact letters), you should target organisations that you are interested to work for. Briefly include your current career or study circumstances and any specialised professional abilities. Be specific about the type of job you are interested in being considered for.

2. Why you want this job Explain how your qualification and career plan match the job.

The details you provide should show that you have done your research and understand what the job entail, what the company and industry are looking for. Do not copy sentences from their website.

3. Your specialist skills that are relevant to the job Identify employer needs and the value you can bring to the organisation with the skills you can offer. Describe your specialist skills – relevant qualifications, experiences, achievements and skills as your selling point. Give examples to support your claims.

Briefly describe your course (if not finished include your finishing date), majors or specialisations and results if they are strong.

4. Your general skills that are relevant to the job List your general skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, initiative and enterprise, problem solving, planning and organising, self-management, technology.

Give examples from all your experiences – team projects, paid work, voluntary work, community activities or sport to provide evidence.

5. Closing Refer to your resume and any attachments.

Say you are interested in an interview and when you are available. For cold contact letters, say when you will call to follow up.

Finish on a positive note and thank the employer for their time.

Format and style

  • One A4 typed page with margins not too narrow
  • 10-12 point standard fonts (eg Times New Roman, Arial)
  • Plain business English (avoid abbreviations, jargon and slang)
  • 100% accurate spelling and grammar
  • Short concise sentences (avoid chunky paragraphs)
  • Clear structure – one main idea per paragraph
  • White space between paragraphs
  • A positive tone (do not include your weaknesses)

Check the document

Click here to see other resources and sample cover letters

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