How to write a cover letter that shortlists you for an interview

Are you looking for a new job and wondering how you can write a cover letter that shortlists your for an interview?
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A well written cover letter that complements your resume, and is tailored to the job application can boost your chances of being shortlisted for an interview. 

Cover letter example

Joan Marie
joanmarie@outlook.com
0400 000 000

Mr Jack Smith
Service Manager
Department of Health and Wellbeing Services
123 Central Lane, Brisbane
4000

Dear Mr Smith,

✯Tip If you get sent an email, you are more likely to read it if it is addressed personally to you. A cover letter is the same. Your prospective employer is more likely to read the cover letter if it addressed directly to them. If you do some research and you still can't find who the manager will be, you can address the cover letter 'to whom it may concern' or 'Dear Hiring Manager' or even Dear [insert their position title]. 

After carefully reading through the job advertisement on "insert place e.g. Seek" for "Insert position title here" and researching about 'insert organisation name here", I would formally like to put my application forward for consideration. 

✯Tip The manager may have multiple job openings, therefore clarifying the role is really important. Showing you have also taken time to research the company shows you are interested. 

Insert a strong paragraph about why you are interested in the role, what your experiences, specific abilities, skills, experience and characteristics they are looking for in a candidate.

✯Tip Highlight your special abilities that makes you stand out over other applicants. Demonstrate your passion and hook the manager into wanting to know more information about you. 

Please find my resume included which highlights relevant work experience and skills which complement your position opening. I would be open to discussing the application further and can be contacted by mobile on 0400 000 000 or via email at joanmarie@outlook.com.

✯Tip Include a call to action to conclude the covering letter. 

I look forward to discussing the position further. 

Be careful not to demand an interview as this can put a Manager off. 

Kind regards,
Joan Marie.

Benefits of writing a cover letter

  • It formally introduces you to the prospective employer
  • Demonstrates you put in effort and considered the application
  • Matches your skills and qualifications with what they are looking for
  • Urges the prospective employer to want to know more about you
  • Acts as a marketing technique which asks the prospective employer to take an action, e.g. read your resume, contact you to discuss your skills further etc. 
  • It gives you added bonus points over others who haven't included a cover letter in their application. 

How to write a cover letter that shortlists you for an interview

  1. Introduce yourself. This is your first impression with your prospective employer. A short, brief introduction is all it takes to give them a sneak peek into what you are like as a person. 
  2. Use convincing language. Be clear and avoid overly long sentences and fancy words. For a list of dynamic verbs to use in your resume and cover letter click here.
  3. Customisation. Tailor the cover letter to the specific job application. 
  4. Be specific about your skills and characteristics. Tell the employer why you a better employee over others.  
  5. Structure the cover letter like a professional letter. Include a header, your contact details, the prospective employer's details and address it formally e.g. Mr Smith, Mrs Smith etc. Don't use the employer's first name.
  6. Don't waffle on! Keep the cover letter structured, short and concise and relevant to the job application. A cover letter should be no more than one page. 
  7. Don't repeat what is in your resume. You want additional unique information about you which stands out to the reader.
  8. Use their language. One way to tell the employer that you are one of them already is to use their jargon and acronyms. E.g. if you are a community care worker looking to work with disability, having 'knowledge of NDIS' on your cover letter says more to the employer than 'knowledge of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.' 
  9. Write in first person. Using 'my experience', "I have completed a degree in ..." is preferred, however don't repeat the word "I" several times. 
  10. Be professional. "Hey, I'm applying for the job you've got going." is not going to score you an interview! Be courteous, respectful, knowledgeable and thank the reader for taking the time to review your details. 
  11. Add a call to action. It is imperative to wrap up your cover letter by requesting they get in touch with you to to discuss your application further. 

How to score bonus points with your prospective employer

  1. Demonstrate passion straight from the first paragraph. A strong start will give you a good first impression. You want your passion to jump off the page. When reading 300+ resumes, they all blur into one another and all you read is blah, blah, blah after a while. You want PASSION to jump off your cover letter and engage the reader so you get put on the top of the pile.
  2. Call them. There is no better opportunity to get your foot in the door than by calling the actual employer directly (not the Human Resources admin who is the normal contact person, but your new potential manager). What should you ask them? Tell them you have seen the advertisement and you have been waiting for a position like this to open up for a while, then ask them what challenges they currently have in their area. This opens up the dialogue and you have more of an opportunity to have a conversation with them. End the phone call by thanking them for their time, and ask if they prefer you to send your application to them directly, or apply through seek, indeed etc. If they say directly, you're in! 
  3. Research the organisation. Everyone will have read the job advertisement, you want to stand out and put additional information the employer will relate to e.g. the organisation's mission, vision, values or goals and objectives. Indicate you have followed their social media feed or their progress in a particular project and you would value being apart of the organisation. 
  4. Discover who to address the cover letter to. If you get sent an email, you are more likely to read it if it is addressed personally to you. A cover letter is the same. Your prospective employer is more likely to read the cover letter if it addressed directly to them. If you do some research and you still can't find who the manager will be, you can address the cover letter 'to whom it may concern' or 'Dear Hiring Manager' or even Dear [insert their position title]. 
  5. Get someone else to proofread your resume, cover letter or key selection criteria. Don't let a good job go due to grammatical or spelling mistakes. 

Cover Letter contents

  • Full name
  • Contact number
  • Email address
  • The prospective employer's organisation, name and title
  • The prospective employer's contact details
  • Clarify the position you are applying for
  • Highlight where you found the job application e.g. Seek
  • A short paragraph highlight specific abilities, skills, experience and characteristics they are looking for in a candidate
  • Note the organisations/role description where you had specific experience they are looking for to demonstrate your ability. 
  • An outline of why you are an ideal candidate for the role.
  • A concluding sentence asking them to read your resume and to get in touch with you. 

What not to include in a cover letter

  • Your home address
  • Multiple phone numbers or email addresses.
  • An email which is inappropriate e.g. kittykatpoledancer@gmail.com unless you are going for a dancer position!
  • Grammatical and spelling mistakes

Should I include a cover letter even if the employer doesn't ask for it?

Yes! The only reason you shouldn't include a cover letter is when they explicitly tell you not to. An employer is much more engaged in you as a candidate if you include a cover letter (which is tailored to the job application) that introduces you as a person. Everyone can submit a resume, however it is the candidates who submit a cover letter with their application that become 'people' instead of words on a page.

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