The Art of Writing Cover Letters

  1. Start off by just saying what you want to say in plain English
  2. Be natural; do not try to sound like someone else, and use language and words that you normally use
  3. If possible address or personalize your letter, rather than “to whom it may concern”
  4. Include information on how, when and where you can be reached
  5. Always type rather than hand-write your letter. It is a business letter and should be as professional and polished as possible
  6. Typos are the fastest way to the rubbish bin for your CV! Check and re-check for ‘typos’, grammatical errors, etc.

The role of your CV is to serve as an advertisement of yourself and your skills. Whoever is reading your CV wants to see proof of your skills. So describe your skills by detailing your qualifications, experiences and achievements and where possible, what you have actually done and when you did it.

Your strongest attribute should always be the first section presented to catch the reader’s attention. For a student or graduate, this will most probably be your education.

Other important rules on how to further enhance your cover letter:

  1. Include your part-time job experience
    This is your chance to give factual evidence of work based skills, including initiative for seeking work in the first place, and time management juggling both study and work. This can be summarized if you have had a number of part time jobs, or give some detail of any roles you have held for a longer period, and any progress made in that time (e.g. promoted to shift supervisor)
  2. Everyone has “transferable skills”
    Teamwork, communication and leadership skills, along with examples of achievement, are what employers look for. Simply listing your non-work activities is dull. Your involvement in sporting teams, cultural or community clubs is how you will have experienced and practiced these transferable skills, so give the reader some idea of the skills you have gained through non-work activities e.g. captain of team, committee member of club, etc.
  3. State your “objectives”
    Objectives are helpful if you are trying to show the relationship between your skills and a particular position, but they do not add value when they say things like “I am looking for a challenging position suited to my education and skills”. Be specific when stating your “objective”
  4. Say why
    Describe what you were thinking, what skills you believe your study has given you, and how they will help you in “real” work. Remember, you chose your study path and you should answer why
  5. What should it look like?
    Use plenty of space; do not squeeze all your information into a small space, as this makes it hard to read and quite unprofessional. Use a reasonable size font (between 10 to 12pt are good). Do remember to eliminate the ‘typos’, grammatical and spelling errors
  6. What information to include
    Question yourself when writing your resume, “Will this statement help me land an interview?”. Try and include information that you can say “yes” to that question. Be brief, yet precise. Use summary words rather than detailed, lengthy sentences. In general the further back in time you go, the less information you should provide
  7. Keep a copy of what you send
    Make a copy of each letter and CV sent, and keep it for future reference. When you get a phone call from a prospective employer it is reassuring if you can remember the company name and what position you had applied for.

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