How to write the perfect cover letter

Write a professional cover letter

The cover letter is the first piece of information an employer will read about you.  This letter must be designed to grab the attention of an employer and clearly demonstrate what skills you have to offer.  Preparing a high quality and professional cover letter adds the final touch to an application and delivers your message.

The majority of job applicants fail to write the perfect cover letter.  Here are some of the key things to avoid when writing a cover letter:

  • Avoid repeating information that is already in your resume such as a list of certificates and qualifications
  • Leave out personal information such as marital status, family or personal interests
  • Avoid providing a step-by-step history of your career
  • Do not mention reasons for leaving other positions or discuss issues such as salary

The purpose of your cover letter is to provide to an employer the reasons why you would be suitable for this position.  It is important to demonstrate that when writing a cover letter you have understood the position applying for and provide relevant information.  We have included below examples of a cover letter.  Follow this step-by-step process on how to prepare your letter.

Review the Position Description:  Before beginning to write a cover letter review the position description.  Analyse the expected duties and responsibilities along with the purpose of the position.  This knowledge will ensure that information is relevant, concise and suits the position you are applying for.  Your job in this situation is to understand the employer and their expectations of the role.  Matching with your cover letter to this requirement will assist in gaining the interest of an employer.

Opening Paragraph:  The opening paragraph provides to an employer a statement on your intention to apply and a brief summary on why you are suited to the position.  This can include mentioning extensive experience in similar industries or qualifications.  The opening paragraph should be 2 to 3 sentences that sets the tone for the cover letter and makes a positive claim for the position.  The text below, taken from a teacher aide application, provides an example of this process:

Please find enclosed my application for potential positions within your organisation.  I am an experienced and competent Teacher Aide with a successful record in influencing and supporting the education environment.  I possess the required level of qualifications, experience and professional ability to work with your organisation to support learning and assist teachers to deliver quality educational outcomes. 

Statement of Claims:  The body of any professional cover letter provides to a potential employer a summary of your capability, skill and qualifications.  The purpose of this section is to interpret your resume with reference to the position you are applying for.  This section provides more explanation on why you are suitable for the position and the benefits of your experience and qualifications.  This is different to your resume which is a statement of fact and skills.  When you write your cover letter relate your claims to a certain position and demonstrate how you can add value to an employer.  Below is an example from the same teacher aide cover letter:

My experience across a number of different school and education environments ensures an ability to successfully meet the requirements of this role.  I have focused on increasing my knowledge and skills to understand educational pathways and improve opportunities for students to learn.  In my current position I demonstrated this capability through delivering high-quality support in preparing activities, supporting individuals and groups, implementing the instructions of teachers and maintaining a clean and professional education environment.  The benefit of this experience includes:

  • Extensive and current understanding of the expectations required to deliver learning support
  • Exposure across a range of learning environments including providing support to students with special needs
  • Capacity to implement individual learning plans and instructions
  • Understanding of the standards associated with supporting teachers and learners
  • Ability to undertake basic administration support and assistance
  • Capacity to follow and understand internal procedures and policies

Closing Paragraph:  Each cover letter should finish with a closing summary on how you are suited to the role.  This may include some personal qualities and an indication of your career direction over the long term.  An employer is interested in understanding if you will remain within the role and have the required professional and personal qualities to meet all expectations.  The following closing paragraph is from the same application:

Throughout my career I have consistently demonstrated my ability to meet the standards required of this role.  As an individual I have been successful in communicating effectively, working as a team member and demonstrating a willingness to take on additional responsibilities.  I am confident of meeting the requirements associated with this position and look forward to discussing this application with you further. 

Understanding the difference between the content of a resume and cover letter can avoid repetition and add a high level of professionalism to your application.  When you write a cover letter ensure the information is relevant, concise and directly matched to the position or industry sector.  Follow the above hints and make sure your cover letter is a hit with the required audience.

Best of luck with your application.

Need a cover letter template, go here

John Matthews