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The Skinny on Cover Letters



Imagine you are an employer or human resources professional and it’s your job to wade through many, many job applications in the hope of finding just the right person to fit your company.


What’s the first thing you do?  Skim cover letters to see which one to read thoroughly, before looking over the resume.


It may not be intentional, but when recruiting you can get a little fussy, particularly when there are a large number of applications.  Getting your cover letter right is so important to making it through to the next stage of the recruitment process.   Here are some tips to help you out:


What to include:


  • The name, title of the job contact and company – spelled correctly
  • A letter tailored to this job only, not copy and pasted from the last.
  • A brief introduction/opening paragraph
  • Why you would like the job – professional reasons
  • Give real life examples of experience which matches the selection criteria
  • Keywords within your letter which relate to the position skills and your work accomplishments
  • Positivity and enthusiasm for the role without sounding desperate
  • White space between paragraphs
  • Closing – Thanking them for the opportunity, to apply and referring to any attachments.


What to leave out:


  • Your life story and anything personal.  eg. “I’ve been out of work 3 months……..”
  • Spelling errors and incorrect grammar. Tip: Aussies - do not rely on an American spell check.
  • Really long paragraphs
  • Jargon or slang
  • Any expectations of salary
  • An exact copy of the wording from your resume
  • Anything that makes you sound too arrogant or conceited
  • Pages 2, 3, 4 etc.  Only include one page.
  • Pages and pages of attachments - references, transcripts etc, unless requested.


After drafting your cover letter, get someone who has great attention to detail to read it.  Sometimes you look at things so long, you automatically skip over the errors or omissions.


The last word:  If you have to email your cover letter and resume, only use one file.  Just copy your cover letter into the front of your resume (then check page formatting throughout doc).  By including the documents together this will ensure they don’t get lost or separated at the other end.