Writing cover letters

Writing cover letters
SEEK content teamupdated on 09 December, 2019

If you’re one of those people who are quick to get your resume across without sending a cover letter, think again! Not only do most employers expect one, you’d be surprised how a well-written cover letter can boost your chances of landing an interview. Ready to learn more? We’ve got the low-down on cover letters for you.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is usually no more than a one-page letter or short email that precedes a resume, and is the first point of contact with a prospective employer. Just as in real life, it would be poor form to launch into the details of your life experience when meeting someone for the first time, a cover letter lets you politely introduce yourself and summarise who you are and where you’ve come from.

A cover letter is usually no more than a one-page letter or short email that precedes a resume, and is the first point of contact with a prospective employer.

What differentiates your cover letter from your resume?

A cover letter and resume are usually designed to complement each other. While a resume should include detailed information about your educational background and work experience in around two pages, a cover letter is usually shorter and sharper, and expresses your interest in the job you’re applying for.

While resumes are best formatted with headers and bullet points, and are often devoid of tenses, a cover letter is written in first person (e.g. “I have 5 years of experience working in an administrative role”) and is addressed to the person who is responsible for processing potential candidates for the position.

How to write covering letters:

  • Start with a brief introduction about yourself and state the purpose for writing. Make sure you mention the job you’re applying for and your interest in it.
  • Give a snapshot of relevant skills, qualifications and experience that relate to the job description – basically, a few lines summarising the content of your resume.
  • If you’ve claimed you have a particular skill, give real life examples. This is often required in more detail if there’s a request to meet selection criteria.
  • Mention that your resume is attached, and then finish with a call-to-action, such as requesting an interview or asking to meet, before signing off cordially.

How to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd

A cover letter should be engaging and make the reader so interested, they can’t wait to get to your resume to read more. It should show the employer that you have the skills to do the job, so always target your letter to the specific role you’re applying for.

A good cover letter can help you get a job interview by convincing an employer that you are what they are looking for and it will also demonstrate your written communication skills, so inject your personal style into your writing to stand out above the competition.

Some quick tips when writing your cover letters:

  • Use clear direct language, avoiding overly long sentences or fancy words. 
  • Tailor the letter to the job and company, and make it clear that it hasn’t been recycled.
  • Instead of writing ‘Dear Sir / Madam’, phone the company and find out who is the correct person to address it to.
  • Use good spelling and grammar. Poor English could make or break your chance at a read of your resume!
  • Keep it under 250 words and make sure it fits onto one page. 
Cover letters

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