Everything you need to know about writing a cover letter

Posted by Lucas Leung

Job hunting is a tedious and tiring task, that mostly everyone goes through at some point. One of the most challenging aspects of job hunting is writing an effective cover letter that will impress a recruiter. There are a lot of differing opinions out there about whether you even need a cover letter, but the truth is, in most cases you definitely do.

A cover letter is also known as a letter of motivation, which is attached to a resume or CV. The purpose of a cover letter is to provide further detail on how your skill set might align with a role, why a company is the right fit for you, and what you can bring to the team.

In essence, it’s a great way for recruiters to get to know you a bit better beyond the lines on your resume.

When planning your cover letter, ensure you follow the proper structure of a letter by following these rough guidelines whilst also ensuring you are tailoring it to the company as well:

  • Contact Information

    The contact information part of a cover letter follows the standard format of a formal letter. Make sure you provide all the necessary information. Addressing the recruiter directly by name is preferred, however, 'X Company Graduate Recruitment Team' is fine if you are unable to. Basically, anything that is a little more personalised than just using "to whom it may concern" will do!
  • Introduction (First Paragraph)

    The first paragraph should explain why you are writing. This means you should include things like how you found the position (and what the position is), why you are interested in the job and a short introduction about who you are as well. This section will be a similar to your graduate pitch which includes your career goals and how your personal values tie in with the employer's values.
  • Body (Middle Paragraphs)

    The body section of your cover letter will explain why you are qualified for the position. Here you should choose a few skills, experiences, or attributes that closely match an ideal candidate for that position and highlight them. Try and sprinkle some keywords for the ATS such as leadership, customer service, adapt to change, etc.

    Avoid repeating your resume directly by focusing on important aspects of an experience and tailoring your response accordingly. Ensure that you demonstrate how your knowledge and experience will help you fulfill the job requirements. As a bonus, show some personality through a relevant personal story.
  • Summary (Final Paragraph)

    Briefly summarise your motivations for applying and then conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for their consideration and let them know you look forward to hearing back from them.
  • Closing and Signature

    Include some professional closing words such as 'Kind regards' or 'Sincerely Yours' followed by your signature to round off your cover letter.

Check out this cover letter template you can use from SEEK.

Once you have the structure down pat, you can focus on perfecting the content of your cover letter. Here is our list of tips that will help you write a great cover letter for your graduate applications:

Start with research

Before you actually begin writing your cover letter, learn more about the company and the position you are applying for. On top of your general research on the company website, for example, try reaching out to some hiring managers on social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn so you can foster an interaction that you can speak about. This is also a great way to show you really are passionate and interested in the company.

If your cover letter is too generic, recruiters may screen you out due to a lack of tailoring and specificity (e.g. not properly answering 'Why us?' and 'Why you?' for a specific role).

For more details on researching a company, check out the article we wrote addressing the different types of research you can do.

Sell yourself

A cover letter gives you only one page to convince a recruiter you should progress to the next round. Recruiters also won't spend too much time on each letter as they need to go through a stack of applications. Starting with a strong opening sentence about your experience, goals or passion will grab their attention.

Make sure when you are selling yourself that you focus on the future instead of the past. Whilst your cover letter touches on your past experiences, focus on what you want to achieve and what you want to do.

Go beyond your resume and be selective on what you talk about. Choose two or three skills you want to highlight and offer examples of when you demonstrated them. Whenever possible, include quantitive measurements of how you made an impact.

Be enthusiastic with great tone and language

Hiring managers are going to favour a candidate who makes it seem like their dream job. Put yourself in their shoes - if you have to would work harder than someone who is extremely passionate about the job and won't substitute it for anything else. If you aren't excited about some aspect of the company or role then why are you even applying?

Try to use professional and personable language, similar to what the hiring manager would use with customers. Sometimes it can be hard to critique your own writing so get a second opinion from someone about your tone. The best way to get through to the hiring manager is to be authentic and genuine instead of being desperate.

Spelling and Grammar Check

These kinds of errors stick out like a sore thumb, especially when hiring managers are comparing cover letters side by side. A great way to check for spelling and grammar is to copy and paste your text into apps such as Grammarly or any other free online website.

Avoid Being Too Generic

When you are writing your cover letter, you want to make sure you are tailoring it as much as possible. A great way to test if your cover letter is too generic is by replacing the company name with a different one easily, then it's not tailored enough and may be screened out.

Those are our tips for writing a compelling cover letter for your application. We wish you the best of luck with your applications!


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