The cover letter is the second most important part of your overall job application, following your CV/resume of course!
A well written cover letter that is straight to the point and relevant to the job you are applying for can act as an excellent support of your CV/resume, particularly if your CV /resume doesn't quite match up to the requirements of the job you are applying for.
A couple of key tips for a positively impacting cover letter for the Australian job market are set out below.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when applying for a job is to write a cover page that is unnecessarily long. Keep your cover letter short and to the point and aim for one page in length. Only write relevant points that support your application to the specific job you are applying for, and don't fill the letter with information that has nothing to do with the job that has been described.
When you write your letter, it is OK to have a standard letter that you are sending out to a couple of different jobs, but make sure you tailor the letter to each individual job. A lot of people make the mistake of using the same letter over and over and often they are sending out letters that are addressed to the wrong person, refer to the wrong job title and that are full of information that is not relevant to the job they are applying for. Make sure you check your letter before sending it out so that it is tailored to the specific job and company you are applying for.
If there are specific selection criteria the employer is looking for, or the advert refers to attributes, skills and/or experience they are looking for in their ideal candidate, then you should make sure that you address how these specific items relate to yourself. Recruiting managers are looking for those key points, otherwise they wouldn't have listed them in their adverts. If you do not make the employer aware of your "match" to what they are looking for, you may not make it to the interview stage.
Also, when addressing the selection criteria, back up your statements with a brief example. For instance, instead of stating, "I am highly organised and work well to tight deadlines", support this statement with why. For example, "I am highly organised and work well under pressure and have demonstrated this in my previous roles through my adoption of techniques such as proper planning, prioritisation and delegation of work load". Now you are making a powerful statement against the selection criteria!
Like your CV/resume, your cover letter should be clear, concise and to the point. Recruiting managers tend to scan CVs and cover letters for key points before going back to read the information in more detail.
Don't be afraid to highlight certain relevant points in bold, italics or even set out your strengths and examples against the job description in bullet points or numbered - this makes the information very easy to process when scanning the cover letter. Refrain from long drawn out descriptions unless you are asked to address the selection criteria in a more comprehensive or formal manner, such as with Government applications.
The majority of recruiting managers appreciate a traditional letter format with your name, address and contact number, their company name, address and the correct person you are applying to all at the top. Then underneath your address ("Dear Mr/Mrs/etc") a subject heading outlining the job you are applying for, followed by the body/content, and finally, signed off by yourself. This shows respect, indicates that you value presentation and demonstrates your skill level with word processing.
It is also fine to write your cover letter in an email, however it shows more effort and importance if you take the time to write a formal letter. Sometimes it's the little things that determine whether you are screened out or short listed for an interview.
Furthermore, where you can, stick with Microsoft Word documents. Although other programs may provide better-looking CVs, your potential employer may not have that program and so will not be able to open your letter and CV. This could mean an instant strike out! Microsoft Word is the safest option with all of your documents.
NB All of Nab That Job!'s documents are in Word format
This may seem obvious, but you should really take care with spelling and grammar in your applications. This is particularly important for jobs where written communication is important. If you can't write a simple letter without making spelling mistakes and using incorrect grammar, you will make a bad impression from the start and may not get the opportunity to make up for it at the interview stage.
Always do spelling and grammar checks before sending your application, and where possible, have a friend or family member run their eyes over your application before sending.
Don't forget, when you're applying for a job with an organisation, you're also assessing THEM on whether they are the type of organisation YOU are looking for. By stating what kind of organisation you are ideally looking for, you are putting the ball back in the recruiting manager's court to assess whether they are up to YOUR standards!
An example of this kind of statement is, "I am ideally looking for a company that values its employees, and demonstrates this through supporting personal development, offering career progression or succession planning, having a flexible work place, and a friendly and positive working environment". You could then follow up your statement with an impression you have received about this company possibly being on track with meeting your criteria, such as, "from my research, company X appears to have this kind of culture, and I look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about your organisation and discussing this role in more detail".
The tips above are great for giving you some sort of direction with writing your Australian cover letter. However, if you want detailed instructions on where to start, what key information to include, how long to write your letter, how to set it out and more - this ebook is for you.
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Always include your availability for commencing a new role, by indicating your notice period with your current employer, or whether you are available to commence a new job immediately. You may feel it appropriate at the beginning of the letter to state why you are now on the market for a new job - whether it is that you are seeking new challenges, or putting your newly completed qualifications to use etc. However, I advise that you refrain from stating your reason if it is that you have been retrenched or have had your job terminated. This can open up opportunities for conclusions to be reached before you have the opportunity to explain yourself.
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