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A cover letter is like the introduction to your resume; it gives you a chance to show some personality and demonstrate to an employer that you’ve researched their company and understand exactly what they’re looking for.
Not everyone agrees on the importance of a cover letter. Some employers say they skip it and go straight to reading the resume, but there are plenty of employers who say they do value a well-written introduction, so even though you get no guarantees that it will be seen every time, it’s generally best to include one anyway.
“Resumes may get you a job, but your cover letter opens the door, use the opportunity to address the employer personally if possible.”
“Focus on at least 3-4 of your skills that directly apply to the position and tie your attributes to the company to which you are applying.”
Because cover letters are usually sent in the form of an email these days, they generally aren’t expected to be as formal as they once were, but there are still a few essentials to include.
Cover letter example
12 Sesame Street,
3 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
Whatever you do, don't start out with a generic "Dear sir/madam" or "To whom it may concern," as this is impersonal and defeats the whole purpose of your cover letter.
If it's not immediately clear who to address your letter to, do a little digging on the company website and LinkedIn - if necessary you can always pick up the phone and call the company to find out.
This is where you will introduce yourself, state the position you are applying for, explain how you came to know about the job/company and why you are applying.
Never assume that the recipient will know what position you are applying for, as companies often have more than one opening at any given time.
You could also include a little information about how you found the job, especially if someone recommended it to you. If you have any connections within the company, this would be the place to do your name-dropping. You should also check for press releases, news, articles or anything else that might give you a clearer picture of the organisation and its culture, as this will help you to adopt the right tone in your cover letter.
This is the place where you will list the specific reasons why you should be considered for the job. This can include relevant experience, education or personal accomplishments that make you an ideal candidate.
What's special about you? Do you have years of relevant experience? Does your education make you an ideal candidate? Are there any specific accomplishments that you're particularly proud of? Most importantly, how will your qualifications benefit an employer?
Keep in mind, though, that this isn't meant to be a recap of your resume; you don't have to cover everything and you shouldn't just rattle off a list of skills and accomplishments. Instead, try to show some personality, creativity and enthusiasm, and remember - you're allowed to be human.
This is your closing paragraph. Here you will list any information that was specifically requested in the job posting, such as availability dates, and thank the employer for his/her time.
In order to get potential employers interested in you, you first have to show an interest in what they do. Take the time to research the companies you will be applying to. Aside from company websites, you can spend some time researching the company on social media. For example, check out some of the executives' Twitter feeds or employee profiles on LinkedIn.
You can say something like “I look forward to hearing from you” or you can be more assertive by saying something like “I will contact you within the next two weeks to see if you require any additional information.”
You should also check for press releases, news articles or anything else that might give you a clearer picture of the organisation and its culture, as this will help you to adopt the right tone in your cover letter.
Things to do
Grab the reader’s attention. Use a question or leading statement to entice further reading.
Fill in the blanks left on a resume. A cover letter is your chance to say anything about your skills that can’t be said on a resume.
Stick to one page. Employers don’t have time to read a short story.
Include evidence that you have done research on the company.
Tie your own skills to the job description.
Describe your abilities in terms of how your experiences will benefit the organisation.
Ask for an interview. Confidence can land a job.
Use caution with writing styles. If you are applying for marketing position with a company you know is quirky, feel free to be a little more casual. If you are applying for an accountant or a legal position, remember that formality is the norm for many of these organisations.
Things not to do
Give too much personal information.
Talk about how the organisation can help you. Remember, at this point, it’s how you can help the organisation.
Be boring. A little zing in a cover letter can go a long way to landing an interview. However, be careful to not use too much humour in a cover letter. Humour is difficult to decipher when not face-to-face.
Rehash what is written on the resume. Give information that enriches your resume.
Use the same letter for all jobs. Cater each letter to the particular position/organisation.
Assume that errors are ignored. Proofread and proofread again.
Forget to follow up. A call to the company asking about the progress of the search may keep your name relevant.
Copy someone else’s cover letter. Be original!