​Key takeaways

  • Keep it succinct

  • Tailor each letter to suit the job

  • Proof read very carefully!

The covering letter attached to your resume is your means of self introduction. It is a chance to capture the attention of the reader and demonstrate the qualities that set you apart from other applicants.

Covering letters are generally used when responding to positions advertised through the print media or the Internet and as a unique selling tool when you want to approach a prospective employer directly. They are basically an advert for your resume and as such need to grab the reader's attention and make them want to read on. This is usually done by highlighting your "Unique Selling Points" - ie. The qualities that set you apart from the other candidates. It should be written so that the reader cannot possibly pass it over without opening the resume document itself.

Your covering letter should complement your resume by highlighting the most relevant aspects relating to the position. Make a draft, then when you are satisfied that it reads well and will get the reader interested, get a second opinion by asking a friend to review it. If you are not sure of the qualities or competencies required, try to work out what they are likely to be or consider a similar position you have seen in operation elsewhere.

Covering Letter Checklist

1. Length

One A4 page, well spaced.

2. Language

Be sure to make your letter clear and concise. Use strong verbs which demonstrate action and accomplishments, such as "organise" and "supervise".

3. Name, title and address

Find out the details of the contact person (including all spelling) in the organisation and address your letter accordingly. Don't forget to include your address, phone number and email.

4. Layout

This includes an introduction and identification of the position. For example, commence with the reference number, followed by your reason for applying and a summary of your unique skills/qualifications.

5. Substance

Identify your skills, experience and attributes that match what the employer wants. Look for keywords in the advertisement and address the main elements. For example the advertisement might say: "This position requires an outgoing person with demonstrated capacity to work in a team". The keywords here are "outgoing", "demonstrated" and "team". Show you meet these essential criteria to increase your chances of an interview.

6. Proofing

Essentially you need to draw attention to you and away from others, but not by misspelling the company's name! Proofing is so important; you may even benefit from someone else double checking your cover letter for you.

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