Writing cover letters – how to get started


If you find writing a cover letter intimidating, you are not alone. At the carecareers Careers Centre, we often speak to callers who find making the first steps very difficult.

There’s no reason to let writing a cover letter scare you away from making applications. The best advice I’ve been given is to approach a cover letter like an answer to a question: irrelevant information will not attract your employer. Always be direct and always write a new cover letter for each application – we recommend changing your resume for each new position also. Every decent application does take time.

How do I start?

Start your cover letter with an introductory paragraph (brief is best) about yourself and why you are ideal for the role. Following this, address the selection criteria in your cover letter concisely; I encourage you to do this in bullet point format – this is a brief but effective way to demonstrate to your potential employer that you meet their requirements. The staff reviewing the many applications they receive will not have the time to go through lengthy paragraphs.

It’s important to focus on what you have achieved in past roles, rather than on your capabilities: evidence is key.

As an example, the employer may list in their selection criteria “Excellent written and verbal communication skills”. The most effective way by which to address this is to name the situation or workplace in which your communication skills were used, the task by which they were most developed, the actions you took and the results of your hard work.

For example:

Excellent written and verbal communication skills: My written and verbal communication skills were keenly developed during the last 12 months working as a Talent Officer at carecareers. In this role, I was responsible for advising and liaising with employers, jobseekers and stakeholders. I communicated with these parties through constant phone and email contact. As the first point of contact for these parties, I delivered customer service with courtesy and professionalism. During my time in this role, I received excellent feedback from colleagues and management and demonstrated a high level of productivity.”

This is known as the “STAR” method – situation, task, actions, and results (for more information refer to the related links below), a favoured method as it provides the employer with the evidence that you’ve practiced in past positions.

Other key points

  • Always proof-read your responses and ask a friend to go over your cover letter – there’s always the chance a second pair of eyes will pick up on something you haven’t yet.
  • Keep a copy of your cover letter – it will be a good resource when you get called for an interview!
  • If making an application with a not-for-profit organisation, mention your previous experience in this sector – the not-for-profit culture is different to that of the corporate culture, and your potential employer will appreciate this.
  • Always follow the instructions the employer has given for applications.
  • Always make reference to a reference number if there is one: all jobs listed on carecareers have a carecareers reference number, beginning with “cc”. This is relevant only to our Careers Centre staff, not the advertising employer. Their reference number will be listed in the job title, for example – ORGANISATION / Job Title/ Location (Job Ref: xxxx).

While writing your cover letter can be a lengthy process, it is an essential one and is the first chance you have to you sell yourself to your employer. If you’re still having difficulty after addressing the criteria, you can give the Careers Centre a call and our  Career Consultants will be happy to assist.



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