Even though most people apply for advertised jobs online, you will still need to send a cover letter. The only time you don’t send a cover letter is if the employer has specifically requested a Résumé or CV only.
Important: Whether sending a cover letter or not, your email content must introduce you to the employer and state why you are applying for the job. The email is a summarised version of your cover letter. You must write more in your email than just “see attached”. Give the reader a reason to open your attached documents.
It is vital that your cover letter is tailored to suit each job. (Remember your Résumé also needs to match the employer’s criteria – see Australian Résumé article on our website for more information)
A good cover letter introduces you to the employer and helps you stand out from your competitors. Its purpose, along with your Résumé, is to get you an interview.
Australian Employers will be looking for answers to key questions in your cover letter including:-
- Do you have competent English skills?
- Do you have essential Australian industry knowledge? (For example; local taxation legislation for accounting roles, safety regulations or building standards for civil engineers)
- Why are you applying for the position?
- Have you clearly expressed how well you match the specific job criteria for the position?
- Do you communicate in a positive and enthusiastic way?
- What were your achievements in previous positions?
What should a cover letter look like?
- Formal format of a business letter with name, contact details and date, then the details of the employer receiving your application.
- A subject line with reference to the position you are applying for, where it was advertised, and the date advertised.
- Conversational style of language rather than dot points or lists.
- Separate paragraphs that clearly relate to the specific job advertisement criteria.
- Avoid starting every sentence with “I” (vary the sentence beginnings with terms like, “During my….” Or “Having completed….”).
Structure of a Cover Letter
The suggested structure below is just one example. The order of cover letter content depends on the employer and job advertisement criteria. If the advertisement has a focus on experience then highlight this in your first and second paragraph. If education is listed as the first essential criteria, then place this before experience.
This is a short paragraph that is used to thank the employer for the opportunity to apply and tell the employer why you are applying for the position.
In this paragraph you can highlight your technical skills that relate to the position. This may include qualifications (if relevant to the job and stated as a requirement) and employment experience that match the position criteria. Explain why your skills are useful to the position and the company.
Paragraphs 3 to 5
In these paragraphs you can:-
Highlight additional transferable skills that you possess, (such as time management, organising, attention to detail, etc.) that are relevant to the position and how you have applied or used these skills.
Highlight the personal skills you have in order to fill the role such as communication, teamwork, quality, or customer service.
Add specific information, such as local knowledge, that may not be stated in the advertisement. If you don’t have local experience, show the employer that you have obtained local knowledge needed to do the job.
Note any attached documents that have been requested (i.e. Résumé, selection criteria, academic transcript, etc) and your interest in meeting with the employer.
NOTE: the below example is in reply to an accounting position advertisement in a medium sized business that is particularly focussed on improving their accounting systems and maintaining good customer relations. The content and key words aim to meet the above criteria.
Important things to remember:-
- Use key words and phrases from the advertisement and job description when writing your cover letter. Employers use these terms to identify potential candidates and may use key word search software to filter applications.
- Write from the employer’s point of view. Tell the employer what you can do for them.
- Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Ask a friend with good English or a career professional to check your documents.
- Clearly show how well you match the criteria stated in the advertisement.
Your cover letter should be no longer than one A4 page. The exception is when you have been told to respond to the selection criteria in your cover letter instead of writing a separate Selection Criteria Statement.
Writing an effective cover letter for every job application can be challenging. You need to clearly understand what you offer and the needs of each employer.
Applying for advertised positions is only one part of your job success strategy. In Western Australia, most new migrants find success via networking rather than hoping to get through Human Resources filters. Do you have an effective strategy?
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