What is a cover letter?

A cover letter accompanies a resume and is required for most job applications. A cover letter should give the reader a short summary of your skills and explain why you are the right candidate for the job you’re applying for.

How long should a cover letter be?

A cover letter should be no longer than one page in length.

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to the employer or recruiter and encourage them to read your resume. By looking for key words within your cover letter the reader quickly assesses whether your skills and experience match the criteria outlined in the job they are recruiting for. Job applications are usually speedily reviewed, so it is important that your cover letter clearly includes the skills that the position requires.

Before you start writing a cover letter:

All cover letters should be tailored to the job you are applying for, this means in your cover letter you should include details that are specific to the business and position you are applying for. You should match the skills and attitudes you have to the skills and attitudes that they require.

To customise your cover letter, you should know:

About the job
Read through the job advertisement and underline the skills, attitudes and key words that are used. You should include these skill, attitudes and keywords in your cover letter. Also take note of the type of employment; is it full-time, part-time, temporary or casual?

About the business
Read up about the business you are applying to, find out what their long term goals are and who you will be working with. Remember, employers are not just looking for staff who are keen to work hard, but who can also support their goals. If you know where they want to be in the future, you can explain and demonstrate how you are the best person to help get them there.

Who to address it to
Try to avoid using “To Whom it May Concern”. Try and find out who is responsible for hiring and address it to them personally (i.e. Mr Smith or Ms Doe).

Letter Format

(align to left side of page)
Your full name
Street address
Suburb state postcode

Your phone number
Your email address

The Date (e.g. DD Month 20YY)
(align to right side of page)

Full name of contact
Position (title) of contact
Street no. or PO Box
Suburb, state, postcode

Dear Mr Smith,
Use the employer’s last name or if unknown use Manager

Paragraph 1: Outline why you are writing the letter

If you are writing in response to an advertised position:
Be specific as you can, include the position/employment type/business/location
State that you are writing to apply for the part-time, retail assistant position at your store in Brisbane as advertised on seek.com.au on DD Month 20YY.

If there is no advertised position:
State your interest in securing a position with the company and outline the type of role you are looking for (ensure this role exists).

Paragraphs 2 & 3: Selling yourself

Keep your sentences short and sharp and try to:

  •         Use words from the job advertisement throughout the letter
  •         Summarise your relevant skills, knowledge and experience
  •         Say why you are interested in the position, or why you are suitable (not both)
  •         Write about your personal attributes
  •         Cover your major achievements
  •         Outline what it is that you can bring to the company and mention it by name
  •         Demonstrate what you know about the company
  •         Link the business’s slogan/values/mission statement/vision with your own values/goals/interests

Paragraph 4: Closing

  •         Thank them for reading your letter/application
  •         Let them know your resume is attached
  •         Let them know you would be interested to attend a job interview

Signing Off

Sign off with ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Yours sincerely’
Leave about 5 return spaces for your signature, then type your full name.
Provide your contact number again beneath your name

Try to Avoid:

  • Typos and mistakes
  • Long-winded sentences as the reader can lose interest
  • Re-hashing your entire employment history, just include your most recent position or highlights
  • Including information which is not relevant to the position
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