Do you need a cover letter?

This article is recommended for individuals near the beginning of their careers

Christian Madsen

Written by Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

Is your cover letter being read?

Having spent considerable time in the recruitment field, I can't stress enough the importance of a well-crafted cover letter in the job application process. It's disheartening to see many applicants underestimating the role of cover letters, assuming recruiters only focus on resumes to gauge their suitability for a position.

However, when you're faced with hundreds of applications for a single job opening, time becomes a precious commodity. As a recruiter, I find myself skim-reading through stacks of CVs, trying to spot the most promising candidates. The first step is to compare each application against the specific criteria set for the role, filtering out those who don't meet the basic requirements.

Now, here's where the cover letter comes into play. It serves as a powerful sales pitch that can make or break your chances.  When well-written, a cover letter showcases your unique qualities, passion, and motivation, setting you apart from the sea of applicants.

The Harvard Business Review aptly describes the cover letter as your "best chance" to grab the HR person's or hiring manager's attention. In today's fiercely competitive job market, standing out is paramount if you want to secure that dream job.

So, take the time to craft a compelling cover letter for each application. Tailor it to the specific role and demonstrate your genuine interest in the company. Highlight your accomplishments and skills that align with the job requirements. Remember, a personalised, well-written cover letter could be the key that unlocks the door to your next career opportunity.

Is your cover letter being read?

What should your cover letter look like?

A well-crafted cover letter is an essential part of a job application. It serves as an introduction to your resume, providing you with the opportunity to highlight key experiences, skills, and accomplishments that make you a strong candidate for the position. Here's a general guide on how to structure and write an effective cover letter.


Header

  • Include your name, suburb, phone number, and email address.
  • Include the date of the application.

Salutation

  • If possible, address the letter to a specific person.
  • Avoid generic salutations like "To Whom It May Concern."
  • If the job posting doesn't provide a contact name, consider doing some research to find out who the hiring manager is.

Introduction

  • Start with a strong opening statement that grabs the reader's attention.
  • Mention the specific position you're applying for and where you found the job posting.

Body paragraphs

  • Highlight your relevant skills and experiences. Tailor this section to match the requirements of the job description.
  • Provide specific examples of your accomplishments and how they align with the needs of the company.
  • Use keywords from the job description to demonstrate that you have the qualifications they are looking for.
  • If you're switching careers or have employment gaps, briefly address these in a positive light.

Closing paragraph

  • Summarise why you are an ideal candidate for the position.
  • Express enthusiasm for the opportunity to interview and discuss how your skills align with the company's goals.

Closing salutation

  • End with a professional closing, such as "Sincerely" or "Best Regards."

Signature

  • If submitting a physical copy, leave space for your signature above your typed name.
  • For electronic submissions, a typed name is sufficient.

Additional tips

  • Aim for a one-page cover letter, and make every word count.
  • Provide concrete examples and achievements rather than general statements.
  • Tailor your cover letter for each job application.
  • Keep your language formal and avoid slang or overly casual expressions.
  • Check for grammatical errors and typos.

Remember, a cover letter is your opportunity to showcase your personality and enthusiasm, so make sure it complements your resume and emphasises why you are the best fit for the position.

If you find yourself struggling to identify and address the essential selection criteria for a particular vacancy, I recommend downloading our free guide by clicking the button below. It will help you navigate this process more effectively and increase your chances of making a strong impression with your cover letter.

What should your cover letter look like?

Acknowledge your shortcomings

Acknowledging shortcomings in a cover letter requires a delicate balance. While you want to be honest about your areas for improvement, you also want to present yourself in a positive light. 


Be honest & transparent

Acknowledge the shortcomings you have in a straightforward and honest manner. Admitting to areas where you can improve demonstrates self-awareness and honesty.

Choose the right tone

Maintain a positive and confident tone. Avoid sounding apologetic or overly negative. Emphasise your commitment to growth and improvement.

Provide context

Briefly explain the context of your shortcomings. It could be related to a lack of experience in a specific area, a skill you are in the process of developing, or a lesson learned from a past mistake.

Highlight your willingness to learn

Emphasise your eagerness to learn and improve. Mention any steps you've taken or plan to take to address the shortcomings, such as taking relevant courses, seeking mentorship, or gaining additional experience.

Connect it to the job

Relate your shortcomings to the specific job you're applying for. Explain how you are actively working on overcoming these challenges and how it won't hinder your ability to perform well in the role.

Provide examples of growth

If applicable, share instances where you successfully addressed a similar weakness in the past. This helps to reinforce your commitment to self-improvement.

Focus on strengths

While acknowledging shortcomings, highlight your strengths and accomplishments. Shift the focus toward what you bring to the table and how your strengths outweigh your weaknesses.

Seek to turn weaknesses into opportunities

Frame your shortcomings as opportunities for growth and development. Express your enthusiasm for challenges and your belief that overcoming these weaknesses will contribute to your overall professional development.


Here's an example to illustrate these points:

"While my experience in [specific skill or area] is limited, I am actively pursuing opportunities to enhance my proficiency in this area. I recently completed a [relevant course or training], and I am committed to further developing my skills through hands-on experience. I believe that my strong background in [other relevant skills] positions me well for success in this role, and I am confident in my ability to quickly learn and adapt."

Remember to tailor your response based on your specific situation and the requirements of the job you're applying for. The goal is to present yourself as someone who is aware of their areas for improvement and actively working towards becoming a stronger candidate.

Acknowledge your shortcomings

Show your enthusiasm | Do you need a cover letter?

Show your enthusiasm

Expressing enthusiasm in a cover letter is crucial to make a positive impression on potential employers. Here are some tips to effectively convey your enthusiasm for both the job and the company.


Research the company

Start by researching the company thoroughly. Understand its values, mission, products/services, and any recent achievements. This knowledge will allow you to tailor your cover letter to align with the company's goals and demonstrate genuine interest.

Mention specifics

Instead of generic statements, include specific details about the company that excite you. For example, you could reference a recent project, a company initiative, or a product that you find particularly interesting.

Connect your skills to company needs

Clearly articulate how your skills and experiences align with the needs of the company. Show that you've thought about how you can contribute to their success and growth. This demonstrates not only your enthusiasm but also your understanding of the role.

Express passion for the industry

If you're genuinely passionate about the industry, express it. Explain why you are drawn to the sector and how the company's work aligns with your personal and professional interests.

Highlight company culture

If you know about the company's culture and it resonates with you, mention it. Companies often value candidates who fit well with their culture. This could include aspects like innovation, teamwork, diversity, or community involvement.

Use positive language

Employ positive and confident language throughout your cover letter. Use words that convey excitement, eagerness, and a genuine desire to contribute. Avoid generic phrases and cliches.

Show your knowledge of the job

Demonstrate that you understand the requirements of the job and how your skills make you a perfect fit. This shows that you've taken the time to understand the role and are genuinely interested in contributing to the team.

Tell a story

Share a brief anecdote or personal story that illustrates your passion for the industry or your admiration for the company. This can make your enthusiasm more tangible and memorable.

Conclude on a positive note

End your cover letter on a positive and forward-looking note. Express your eagerness for the opportunity to discuss how you can contribute to the company's success in person.


Remember to keep your cover letter concise and focused. Your goal is to showcase your enthusiasm and align yourself with the company's values and goals.

If you feel that you need further assistance in crafting your cover letter, I encourage you to access our free e-book by clicking the button below.



Christian Madsen

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to have a conversation with you about this topic - please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions πŸ™‚

Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

  • Lester Selvey says:

    Good insights Christian, totally agree with you here. Will surely pass this on.
    Regards,
    Lester

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Thanks Lester! I’m glad you found it useful πŸ™‚

      • Eve Karuru says:

        Thank you Christian for such crucial information about cover letter. I have learnt a lot. Thank you m

        • Christian Madsen says:

          Hi Eve, thanks for your comment! I’m glad I was able to assist πŸ™‚

  • Kelvin Scarff says:

    Thank you Christian, I’ll take it on board. You are right, I have had to change my cover letter on various occasions to suit the needs of the criteria. We need to check the details. I am getting better and will download your cover letter book. Thank you.
    Regards, Kelvin

  • Bryan Burrows says:

    Christian, although your points are valid, there is still doubt as to what recruiters have time to do when they are facing a pile of CV’s. My suggestion for what it is worth is this:
    Supply a template that is filled in by the candidate which requests them to fill in the relevant job experience which exactly supports their application. No more than 2 pages, and actually resembles that of the notes taken through a first interview, asking questions to sort out the candidates’ suitability for the opportunity.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Brian, this is a good suggestion, however, many recruiters do not do this, although it is part of SEEK’s standard advertising package few recruiters use it. It is wasting a lot of applicant’s time – applying for jobs they are not suited for.

      At 11 Recruitment, we have finetuned our system – asking applicants 5 to 8 questions prior to applying. This not only assists the recruiter but also give an indication to the applicant what we are looking for, so they can decide if they really wish to proceed applying to the vacancy.

  • Catherine Alsop says:

    It takes a lot of skill to win over a recruiter with a bunch of words that they have seen a million times before. I think Christian has a valid point by highlighting the fact that you need to show why you believe you are the right person for this job, even if you don’t have all the boxes ticked. The more driven and enthusiastic you are about the position, the better your chances, even if you lack experience in some aspects of the role. I’ll be thinking ‘top 5’ next time I apply for a position.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Catherine, thank you for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree with you – drive and enthusiasm goes a long way πŸ™‚

  • Yes Christian it sounds logical from the readers perspective which one is often blinded from when writing a cover letter.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Joanna, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you found the article useful.

  • Thanks for the info Christian, I totally agree.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Cameron, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found the article interesting πŸ™‚

  • Seriah Adamson says:

    Thank you Christian,
    I am currently building my expertise in writing cover letter as I just finished my degree as a mature age student. Therefore every job I apply for I am under and over qualified. Starting with the negative makes sense – its honest and saves some filtering work for the reader.

  • Megan Burnett says:

    Hi, thank you for the tips which I will take on board. Much appreciated.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Megan, thanks for leaving a comment! I’m glad you to hear you found it useful πŸ™‚

  • Donna Gibson says:

    Hi Christian, thanks for the advice on how your cover letter should mirror the selection criteria. Thanks Donna

  • Insightful. Sound advice. Thanks a lot.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Mahadevi, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

  • Thank you Christian,
    This made sense – I am always scared to include negative in my cover letter.

    Regards,
    Rachel

  • “…start with the negative”. I’ve heard about it for the first time. Thank You for this tip.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Lidia, I’m glad you hear you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

  • Gabrielle says:

    Cheers christian – this is helpful information and I agree – it makes a lot of sense.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Gabrielle, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article useful πŸ™‚

  • John Kinsella says:

    I understood the need for “mirroring” or addressing the selection criteria in cover letters but I now appreciate the benefits of “pitching with the negative”. Thank you Christian for this insight.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi John, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m glad my article was able to provide you with some new information πŸ™‚

  • Henry Tran says:

    Good idea. Combining both CV and cover letter saves us the trouble. Why write a brief introduction then add a cover letter later? Just do both at one go. If you fail CV screening, your letter likely would not be bothered with, either.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Henry, thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear you found the article useful πŸ™‚

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Louis, thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

  • Chris Burgess says:

    I was trained and conducted Targeted Selections in the Police Force for applicants on promotion and am interested in this field which has very similar principles. I find your help and tips extremely educational and helpful.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Gerald, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

  • Charmaine Tobias says:

    Your 60 second post was quite the eye-opener… thanks for bringing that to our attention Christian.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Charmaine, you’re most welcome. I’m glad you found it interesting πŸ™‚

  • Neelam Shukla says:

    Thanks Christian,

    Until I read your article, it appeared to me that all was good with my CL, however, now I see why I don’t get the calls. Will be incorporating the cover letter as far as possible when applying for next opening.

  • Sonya Owen says:

    Great advice, thank you for sharing.

    • My pleasure. If you have not done it yet feel free to download our complimentary e-book on how to write great cover letters (available on our front page).

  • Cheryl Stevens says:

    This information, though valid, is in complete contradiction to advice given by the outplacement service I was registered with. I’m beginning to think everyone is looking for something different and it’s almost a coin toss as to whether you are one of the lucky few to progress.

    • Cheryl, Thanks for your comment. I can only share my experience. Yes, every job is different and every recruiter/employer recruits differently. However, they all want the best person for the job. I am not certain that tossing the coin is the answer any recruiter will give you. If you need a little be of help go you can download a free ebook on how to write effective cover letters: https://11recruitment.com.au/. Hope it helps…

  • Christian, I often have trouble with cover letters and as such I don’t always include one. I thought maybe it was better to not write one than to write a bad one. I’ll take note of your suggestions and hopefully it will give me an advantage.

  • Good to know what recruiters are looking for in regards to cover letters. I really struggle to write cover letters and subsequently I rarely do them.

    • Erica, most people struggle writing them, hence they usually fall flat. You can download on our homepage a pdf on how to write cover letters and I suggest you always include one.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Thanks for your comment! If you have any suggestions of your own you’d like to share, or if you disagree with any of the ones I’ve talked about, I’d love to hear your thoughts πŸ™‚

  • Thank you Christian, I will try your suggestion.

    Kind Regards Sue

  • Shraddha Bhalsing says:

    Thank you Christian for sharing such an useful information.I am satisfied with the content of article.

    Regards
    Shraddha Bhalsing

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Shraddha, thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful πŸ™‚

  • A really good common sense article that most applicants seeking jobs wouldn’t always consider. Thanks for the tips.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Leo, you’re most welcome. I’m glad you found the article useful πŸ™‚

  • Marinika Poilly says:

    Wow! Never thought of it this way and it makes perfect sense!
    Thank you so much Christian!

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Marinika, thanks for your kind words. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article πŸ™‚

  • Christie Russell says:

    Thanks so much!!! Yes I totally agree, how you’ve explained it makes perfect sense. I’ve taken this onboard, much appreciated

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Christie, you’re most welcome. I hope the information I provided assists you in your job hunt πŸ™‚

  • Peter Ruffell says:

    Interesting. I’ll try it. Thanks for the data.

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. I hope my advice is able to help you with your next application πŸ™‚

  • Assunta De Bono says:

    Thank you Christian,
    Logical really and I appreciate the article because I have been looking for the edge over the competition.
    Your advice in this article is greatly appreciated.
    Kindest regards
    Assunta

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Assunta, you’re most welcome. I’m glad to hear you found the article valuable πŸ™‚

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