Cover Letters

Letters, emails and other written communications play a key role in your job search at times. Done right they will help you get job interviews that you wouldn't otherwise get a chance at. Done wrong and you are wasting your time and destroying your opportunities.

Your résumé may not even get read if the cover letter doesn't create enough interest and often when cold calling it is better to send a carefully developed letter without a résumé!

Cover Letters are very important in the job application process. A well written Cover Letter is your passport to getting a job interview. It all comes down to how well you ‘sell yourself’. You have to highlight your skills and attributes and comment on your qualification and experience to convince the employer that you are the best person for the job. A Cover Letter is written after reading and analyzing the job advertisement and thoroughly researching the company. The Cover Letter for each job has to be tailored to suit the advertisement.

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To be able to write a killer cover letter that would get you an interview opportunity you will need to follow these key points:

  • Personalize letters: Do not address a letter to “Dear Sir/Madam.” If necessary, call the organization to learn the name of the appropriate individual and verify the correct spelling.
  • Be relevant: Get in their shoes. Put yourself in the position of the recipient of the letter. What will get their positive attention? Where possible, translate your achievements, abilities, skills and knowledge into potential benefits for them.
  • Be simple and natural: Avoid clichés and jargon. Use language that reflects your style and personality. Be yourself - unique and original.
  • Be appropriate: Consider what is appropriate for the type of position and the expected background of the reader.
  • Be specific and direct: Know what you want to say and get to the point. Don’t give irrelevant detail.
  • Be positive: Avoid apologizing for strengths you lack. Rather, focus on the strengths and qualities you have.
  • Be honest: Your can leave out negative details but you should not lie. It will detract from the power of your authenticity when you meet the employer and can be very damaging when detected.
  • Be confident, not arrogant: Use examples to demonstrate your qualities rather than merely bragging about yourself.
  • Be concise: Make every sentence count towards getting to an interview. Try to highlight appropriate things in as few words as possible.
  • Be available: Be sure to tell the employer how you can be reached. Provide a phone number or e-mail address that you check at least once a day.
  • Proofread: Remember that your computer's spell check cannot identify many mistakes. Have someone (other than you) proofread your letter. If you are word processing multiple letters, be sure to change customized statements to avoid the embarrassment of using organization or individual names from a previous version.
  • Be professional: Sign the letter and package it professionally. Your letter should look as polished as your resume. Full size letter envelopes will present your application in better condition and get more attention.
  • Follow up: Particularly with Enquiry letters it is important to indicate towards the close of the letter that you will be calling them within a certain period. Then make a note in your diary and be sure to make the call.
Your documents should reflect yourself, the position you are applying for, the information content you have to convey, and your perception of the intended recipient of your correspondence.

You might be applying for a specific, advertised job or you might be marketing yourself for possible future work by cold calling. Either way, your cover letter aims to:

  • Introduce you

  • Highlight your key selling points (skills, experience or achievements)

  • Encourage the reader to discover more about you through your resume

  • Finish with a 'call to action', e.g. requesting an interview (if it's a specific job) or meeting (to discuss more general work prospects)

Below are some very useful online resources for people looking for a job in Australia.


Note: Here are additional tips for writing a winning cover letter_color and a cover letter_sample. To see what NOT to do in a cover letter click here and to see a cover letter that is completely inappropriate click here.




Revised: Jun 26, 2011 10:20 pm
@ Bernard Lewis (EPU, NAVITAS English)