How to write a cover letter

When you send a resume, you need to send a short cover letter with it as an introduction and to grab the reader's attention. It should be no more than a page long and, ideally, it should contain three to four paragraphs.

Now follow these easy steps to create a top cover letter and make sure you check out the sample cover letters at the end of the story. Our samples are a guide only.


Appearance

For hard copies, use the same type of paper and font as your resume. The experts recommend sticking to the plainest style possible - A4 quality white stock and Times New Roman, 11 point.

Place the name of the addressee, their title, company name and address in the left hand corner. Some experts recommend you place your own details in the right hand corner like a traditional letter with the date.

CareerOne thinks this could be overkill. Your contact details are on every page of your resume - right? Just make sure you have your name below "Yours sincerely". Alternatively, you could put your details top and centre - the same way your details appear on your resume.

If you are sending your resume via email, include the cover letter and resume as one document.

It's more convenient for the recipient. When posting or hand delivering your resume, you don't make the recipient open two envelopes so there is no reason to make the online reader open two documents.


Content

Paragraph one of your cover letter should state the reason you are writing to this person - namely that you are interested in working for their team.

Paragraph two explains why the company in question should be interested in you. Too many people write about why they want to work for a particular company or land a particular job. Companies want to know why they should hire you.

Paragraph three should be a call to action, namely a meeting or job interview.

All the experts agree that a cover letter should use short sentences and simple language. Companies receive hundreds of letters daily so make sure that your letter stands out and is easy to read.

Check and double-check your letter for errors. Make sure you have the recipient's name and title right even if it means checking with the person's personal assistant or the company's main reception desk.

Get a friend or family member to then check your letter for mistakes.

Don't make the common mistake of summarising your resume in the cover letter. (See our resume stories for more details).

For those approaching companies cold - in other words you are not applying for a specific job or responding to a job ad - it is a good idea to ask for a "meeting" in your last paragraph.

A "meeting" is less pressure than a formal job interview but all the basic rules of presentation, eye contact etc still apply (see our stories on job interviews for tips). Companies will meet with interesting candidates even when they don't have a job on offer right away.

Cover letters are essentially sales letters so they must be written for the customer - the prospective employer - and not be based just on what you want. Stress what you can do for the company you would like to work for - not vice versa.

Need more inspiration? Take a look at the two sample letters below. CareerOne has used fictitious names in the examples below. In some places you will find two words separated by a / - obviously only choose one.

Try to use plain language as much as possible and avoid words that you would personally never use.

Place the date, as outlined below, only on hard copy cover letters as emails will have the date included.


Example 1
Ms Sharon Smith, Sales Manager, XYZ Advertising, North Sydney, NSW 2060. March 10, 200.

Dear Ms Smith.

I was interested to see your advertisement seeking a new account service executive as I have been seeking just such an opportunity and believe my skills and experience would be a good match for XYZ Advertising.

Please find my resume enclosed for your perusal/review. Of particular relevance/interest is the five years I spent in a Melbourne advertising agency working in account service. I have a passion for client service and, as you will see from my resume, a good understanding of the sector I would be working in.

I look forward to having an opportunity to meet with you to further discuss how I can contribute to your team.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Brow

You could shorten the letter as follows (set out the letter in the same fashion as Example 1.

Example 2
Mr John Smith, Operations Manager, XYZ Car Dealership, MacGregor, Queensland 4109.

Dear Mr Smith.

I am writing in response to your advertisement seeking a customer manager to run XYZ Car Dealership's service centre.

As you will see from my enclosed/accompanying resume, my skills and experience are a good match for the position you are now trying to fill.

I look forward to having an opportunity to meet with you to further discuss how I can contribute to your team.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Brow

CareerOne has based the information above on interviews with recruitment consultants, career advisers, including Transcareer, Interim and Aussie Resumes, as well as specialist career websites and books.

Prepared by Kate Southam, Editor of CareerOne, 2003.

Any further questions simply email editor@careerone.com.au.

Article with thanks to www.careerone.com.au
 

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