How to write a good cover letter
In Australia, having a great cover letter is vital. Your cover letter is your opportunity to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, and if you write too much or don’t say enough of the things they want to hear, they may not even read your resume.
By following a few simple techniques, you can present a cover letter that will inspire its reader to read on.
A cover letter that addresses the job requirements, and how you fit them, will be highly regarded. If it does these things in a few short paragraphs, it will attract the reader even more.
The Perfect Cover Letter: What’s my motivation?
Recruiters and hiring managers will be on the lookout for applicants who show an interest in the company. If an employee cares about the company, it stands to reason that they will work to the best of their ability, and do what they can to help it grow – in effect, the ideal employee.
There are many things that might attract you to a company, you might appreciate their charitable efforts or their dedicate research in a certain area of science that interests you. It could even be something as simple as the fact that you like the co-operative policy of the business, where employees are encouraged to help each other.
As is the case when going for an interview, it’s worth doing some research on the business to find out about it and the things it’s been doing recently.
Showing an interest in becoming a part of a new project will show attention to detail, and a willingness to be involved in the company’s operations.
The Perfect Cover Letter: One size doesn’t fit all
In your cover letter writing process, customisation is key.
If you’ve been sending cover letters for job applications without customising them beforehand, this will be holding you back from getting a job. Few jobs within the same industry are exactly the same, and you want to make sure you’re showing the exact skillset the job advertisement asks for.
Recruiters and hiring managers will be looking out for keywords when they read cover letters, and if they don’t see them in yours, they’ll stop reading. These keywords will vary from industry to industry, and even from job application to job application. This is why it’s important to read job descriptions thoroughly.
If you respond to a job advertisement that mentions ‘Five years of experience using Microsoft Excel’, not mentioning your experience with this software will hold you back from getting the job.
When you find a job advertisement that interests you, make a note of all the things it asks for – how many years of experience, specific qualifications or training, responsibilities similar to ones you’ve held in the past, etc. Compare this list to what you have in your cover letter, and if there’s anything you haven’t mentioned, add it in!
The Perfect Cover Letter: Stick to the specifics
Writing a cover letter is hard! There’s so much that you want to tell a potential employer: that you’re very professional, that you’ve always made friends with clients, that you’re good with computers…
These are all useful skills and talents, but you only have a few words to make your impact, and these are too general.
Saying that you’re ‘good with computers’ is so general and vague that it will actually make the reader think the opposite – if you don’t give specific detail, it looks like you don’t know much about it.
Instead, saying ‘Five years of experience using Microsoft Excel to document company financial records’ clearly shows what you can do.
This same idea applies to any career; specific detail will allow the recruiter to plainly see your abilities and how well you would suit the advertised position.
Your cover letter should focus on what skills and experience you can bring into the role and organisation.
The Perfect Cover Letter: Short, simple and professional
Short is good. Short and simple is better! Recruiters and hiring agents will usually be going through between 100-200 applications, so it’s very easy for an application to be discarded if it doesn’t immediately show what they want to see.
To keep things short and simple, you want to follow our previous point – be specific. Give an example of something they have asked for in the job advertisement. Full stop. Move on to the next point!
The Perfect Cover Letter: – Key things to remember:
- Briefly state your motivation for applying; what interests you about the company.
- Make sure your cover letter clearly matches the job you’re applying for.
- Customise your cover letter for every job application – they’ll all be slightly different.
- You only have a small number of words to interest the reader – make them specific, nothing general or unnecessary.
- You don’t need to mention everything here – give the main details, include more in your resume.
If you have any questions about finding a job and how we can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch so we can work towards your goal.
We wish you all the best in your job search!
Careers Team, Career Success Australia