What do Employers Want in a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is the letter you send with your resume. You might be applying for a specific, advertised job, or you might be contacting a potential employer to see if they have any vacancies. Either way, your cover letter needs to:
- Introduce you
- Mention the job (or kind of job) you’re applying for (or looking for)
- Match your skills and experiences with the skills and experiences required by the job
- Encourage the reader to read your resume
- Finish with a call to action (eg: requesting an interview or asking to meet)
3 simple ways to make your cover letter as specific as possible:
- Find out to who to address your letter
- Avoid addressing your letter “To Whom It May Concern” if you can
- Finding out to who you should address your application takes a little bit of effort, but it’s worth it
- If you found the job in an ad, the ad will probably name a person to send the application to
- If not, call the employer or recruitment agency (don’t email them) and ask who should you send the application to
- When addressing a letter, don’t use the person’s first name – use either “Mr” or “Ms”
- Find out more about the job
- When finding out to who you should address your application, you should also try to speak to that person so you can ask questions that will help you tailor your cover letter (and resume)
- Questions you might consider asking include:
- What can you tell me about the job?
- What can you tell me about the ideal candidate for the job?
- Is there a position description I can look at? (only ask this if the job ad didn’t mention a position description)
- Find out more about the company
- Finding out more about a company is also a good way to work out how to tailor your cover letter
- If you know the name of the company, look for information online
- If they have their own website, check it out, especially their About Us page
- If the company name isn’t in the ad, call the recruitment agency and ask who the employer is
- You should never use one cover for lots of different job applications
- Your cover letter needs to show that you know what the job involves and what the organisation requires
- You need to be as specific as you can about your skills and qualities and how they match the job or organisation’s needs
What to include in a cover letter:
A list of your relevant skills
- Your letter should include a brief summary of your skills and experiences that match the job description (a bullet pointed list is fine)
- If you’re answering a job ad, either the ad or the position description may provide a list of skills and experiences that are essential for doing the job
- It may also provide a list of “desirable” skills and experience
- Your cover letter needs to respond to all of the items on the “essential” list and as many items as possible on the “desirable” list in as short a way as possible
- If you say you have a skill or experience, you need to show how you’ve used it or how you acquired this skill briefly
A summary of why you’re right for the job
- After listing your skills and experience you should explain why this means you’re suited to the job.
“I have well-developed customer service skills and will handle all event booking enquiries accurately, politely and in a timely fashion.”
Speak their language
- Using the same language as people who do a particular job is a good way to convince people you’re suited to the job
- Getting familiar with what a company does and how it talks about itself can give you ideas about things to mention in your cover letter, and how to talk about them
- For example, if there’s a tool or software or skill the job requires – like machining tools or cash handling – mention it in your cover letter (but make sure you mention it correctly!)
Ask them to consider your resume and contact you
- Your cover letter should finish by asking the reader to look at your resume
- You should also ask them to contact you about an interview
“I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss my application at an interview. I have enclosed a copy of my resume for your consideration.”
What NOT to include in a cover letter
- Don’t cut and paste your resume into your cover letter;
- Try to reword the information on your resume rather than just repeating it
- Spotlight your experience in the context of the job
- Failing to specify the position you are applying for
- Typos or incorrect information
- Talking about your personal life or salary expectations
- Using “I” too much
- Don’t mention your other job applications
You can also download our Cover Letter Template.
Find more job seeker tips and advice on our website and don’t forget to check out the associated blogs below.
You can also view our Training Calendar to see what the upcoming courses are in your region.