Although your resume will outline your relevant work history, qualifications, dates and specific details about your skills and experience – the cover letter introduces you. It explains your motivations for seeking the position and provides summary information about your skills and experience. Cover letters are a useful way to ‘fill in the gaps’ that may be present if an employer only reads your resume. For example, your cover letter can explain things like: interstate relocation, career change, periods of unemployment and other details that may be unclear from reading your resume alone.
Some recruiters will tell you that they never look at cover letters, and that it’s only your experience outlined on your CV that means anything to them. But it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry, and to include one anyway. As many more companies move to only receiving soft copy and online applications, people constantly wonder whether or not to include cover letters any more.
The Purpose of a Cover Letter
The cover letter is a marketing tool; it communicates to the employer that you are interested in their position and that you have something valuable to contribute as a potential employee. In certain situations, a well written cover letter can be more effective than the resume itself.
When Cover Letters are Necessary
A cover letter is usually an essential requirement when you apply for a role directly to a company, but is not necessary when applying for a role through a recruitment firm.
Most recruiters agree that, although not strictly necessary, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are a great fit for the company you are applying for. It’s a chance to add value to your resume and elaborate on the relevant skills and experience you’ll bring to the role.
How To Write A Cover Letter
Recruiters aren’t searching for applicants that can follow a stock-standard cover letter sample. They’re on the lookout for people who will be a good cultural fit, and those who think outside the box. While cover letter examples are a helpful springboard for inspiration, try not to follow them to a T. Instead, inject a bit of humour and your own personality into the cover letter.
“If I’m in a conference room and the video isn’t working, I’m not the sort to simply call IT and twiddle my thumbs. I’ll gracefully crawl under the table and check that everything is properly plugged in.”
This type of example not only lightens up the cover letter. It also demonstrates your soft skills to the hiring manager, without being overly stuffy. However, remember to always keep it professional — if you wouldn’t say it in a job interview, don’t put it in your cover letter.
Keep the tone positive and upbeat
The tone of your cover letter should be professional, friendly, and upbeat. You want to demonstrate that you are enthusiastic about the role and have a positive attitude towards the company. Avoid mentioning areas where you may be lacking the skills or experience listed in the job advertisement, as you can address these in the interview stage.
Begin with the essentials: these are pieces of information that you absolutely must include in your letter, including:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the organisation you are hoping to work for
- The date of your letter underneath the organisation’s address
- The name of the recruiter or hiring manager. Never begin with “To whom it may concern”. Send the company’s HR department an email asking for the appropriate recipient’s name and contact information.
Opening: Use a Hook!
The number one goal of your cover letter is to get a hiring manager interested in you. But if your first sentence starts with “I am writing to apply for [job name] at [company name]”, chances are they’ll stop reading straight away — even if you’re a perfect fit for the role.
Swap the boring introduction with a memorable statement instead. Start with an impressive achievement you’re proud of and that’s relevant to the role or highlight an aspect of the job description that stands out to you. If you can get them to keep reading, that’s half the battle won.
Paragraph 2: Relevant Skills
Your cover letter should express how your unique combination of attributes could add real value to that particular role in the company. Read the job description carefully so that you can match your most relevant skills, qualifications, knowledge, and experience to the job description with clear examples to support your statements. Confidently demonstrate that your skills are valuable and applicable to the organisation.
Paragraph 3: The Company
Expand on any further skills related to the position you are seeking. Any knowledge of the business may be mentioned here. What attracts you to this organisation in particular? How can you contribute to the organisation’s culture? Mention that you have attached your resume.
Paragraph 4: Personal Skills
Explain how your personal skills enhance and support your technical abilities and state that you would highly regard an opportunity to work for the company.
Paragraph 5: The Conclusion
State that you would welcome an offer of employment and outline your availability for an interview. Include your contact number.
Thank the reader for taking the time to read your cover letter and bid them farewell. A commonly used term is “Yours Sincerely”.
Making your cover letter stand out
Use a clear and concise structure
A good cover letter uses short sentences, simple language and is concise. It should be between 3-5 small paragraphs in length and no longer than one page.
Give them a reason to read your resume
The point of a cover letter is first to introduce yourself and show why you are a good fit for the role and the company, but it should also act as something of a teaser for your resume. You want the reader to move from the letter to your impressive resume, so don’t simply regurgitate all of the information from your resume into your letter, but rather add tidbits so they will be enticed to continue reading.
Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows a raft of professional buzzwords – and is probably tired of them. Avoid using terms and phrases like ‘team player’ and ‘give everything 110%’. If you’d still like to include these sentiments, find a way to write them in your own language so they don’t get written off by the reader as meaningless filler.
No matter how cover letters change through the ages, this one piece of advice on how to write a cover letter remains the same. Spelling mistakes or poor copy-paste jobs are the fastest way to get your application discarded by hiring managers. And when you’re working with templates or saving as PDFs, it’s easy to let a missed comma, rogue bullet point or incomplete sentence slip by.
Run your cover letter through a proof-reader before saving it as a PDF and have a trusted friend or family member double-check it for mistakes. Reading your cover letter out loud is another great way to catch any tiny errors in the mix.
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