How to write a good cover letter

A good cover letter is often said to be an important element of a job application, but the reality is – and I’ve been guilty of this myself – many recruiters will skim over them as reviewing them in depth can be very consuming. However, the catch-22 is, by excluding a cover letter you may give cause for a recruiter to automatically dismiss your application altogether. So what gives? And how can one make the most out of this apparent hurdle and make it beneficial for both you and the recruiter so you don’t end up feeling like this guy?

The best place to start is for me to explain how a cover letter differs from a resume. While your resume contains a chronological and factual summary of your career, your cover letter introduces you to an organisation, demonstrates that you have read the job ad, explains your motivation for applying and draws attention to your resume. It can sound more anecdotal and provides you the opportunity to add some personality to your application i.e. your personal brand and what value you can offer.

A cover letter should tell a good story, and like all good story-telling, should move forward in a clear manner and attract and hold the interest of an audience. To help you get started with your cover letter, we’ve provided a best practice structure as set out below.

Contact person for job
Name of organisation

Dear contact person for job

Position title and reference number where applicable

In the first paragraph, indicate the job that you are applying for, including the where you saw the job advertisement and the date it was published. Here you can also mention any contact that you have had with the organisation.

Briefly introduce yourself in a way that will be attractive to the employer. Describe your motivation behind your application, including what interests you about the role and the organisation.

Indicate why you are a strong candidate for the job, describing how you meet the selection criteria (i.e. what the employer is looking for) as outlined in the job advertisement. Here, you want to focus on the key areas you feel are your strongest and most relevant to the job. Dot points are really effective here as they draw in the reader’s attention to your key strengths.

In this section, you may want to include something that makes you stand out e.g. a skill, quality, or aspect of your work, life or extra-curricular experience which is memorable and distinctive, but still has relevance to the position.

Finally, express your appreciation for consideration of your application and your availability for work.

Yours sincerely,

Your name

As you are writing your cover letter, you’ll notice that many of the same elements as writing your resume will apply. Once you have a first draft, give it a quick boost by checking it against these key pointers:

  • tailor it: review the advertisement and tailor your cover letter to what the employer is looking for
  • make it compelling: strongly outline your motivation for the job and focus on what sets you apart or makes memorable i.e. your personal brand
  • easy to read: use simple and clear formatting and keep it up to a page
  • easy to understand: avoid using jargon
  • make it flawless: ask someone to proofread it

The good news is, once you have created a strong foundation for your own personal cover letter, you can reuse and tailor it for further applications. If you are needing help with your cover letter, it could be worth seeking the help from a resume writing company specialising in the Australian job market or email for a recommendation.

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