Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How to make a drop-dead cover letter!

Your cover letter is the first thing an employer will read about you, it is one of your key marketing tools, make sure it creates a positive first impression.  It should reflect your strengths and experiences in relation to the job you are applying for and be free of any spelling or grammatical errors.

If there is an advertised position make sure you target the skills sort by the employer for that role.  This means you can’t just use the same old letter for every job, you need to modify it for that role.


Where there is no advertisement (you might be asking for an internship or if a company would consider recruiting a recent graduate), you can use a standard letter but make sure you highlight your skills and experience relevant to employers in that profession.

Many large companies and government departments use online applications and some will not require a cover letter so you may not need to send one for every job you apply to.  Read the instructions carefully before you attach your cover letter.

Generally speaking cover letters should be no longer than one page in length.  The first paragraph should highlight why you are writing and your interest in the company and role.  The following 2 or 3 paragraphs highlight your skills, experience and attitudes relevant to the role – these will be fairly broad statements, you can include more detail in the resume.  Nonetheless you should provide evidence to support your claims. The final paragraph thanks the reader for their time and suggests arranging an interview.

Use good quality white paper and a font like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, no smaller than 11 point.  Layout is important – the cover letter is a business communication and your communication skills are being assessed by the employer.

If you are emailing your cover letter to an employer, mention in the text of the email that you are applying for the position and that your cover letter is attached.  Attach the document as a either a Word or PDF file.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, your cover letter should be individual and differentiate you from other people applying for the role.

For more information and help on how to write cover letters and have your draft reviewed, please attend the CEO workshops and appointments.  Visit our website for more information:

Susan Smith
Careers Services Manager – Education, Careers and Employability Office at the University of Sydney Business School

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