How to write a cover letter

A cover letter is generally the first point of contact with a prospective employer. It needs to be engaging and show the employer that you have the skills to do the job. A good cover letter can help you get a job interview by convincing an employer that you are what they are looking for and it will also demonstrate your written communication skills. Your letter should:

  • include a brief introduction about yourself and state the purpose for writing
  • highlight relevant skills, qualifications and experience to be considered for a job interview.
  • give real life examples (meeting minimum selection criteria).
  • target your letter to be specific about the role.
  • inject your personal style into your writing to stand out above the competition.
Include contact details

Your details

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone and mobile numbers
  • Email address

Employer's details

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Address
Opening and closing the letter

Employer's name known

  • Dear Mr/Mrs (name)
  • Yours sincerely (your signature and name)

Name unknown

  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • Yours faithfully (your signature and name)

Content

ParagraphDetails
1. Purpose of your letter If replying to an ad, include the job title and reference/job number (if known). You can state how you found out about the job. Sound enthusiastic about wanting the job to capture the employer's attention.

Writing a letter of enquiry (sometimes known as cold contact letters), you should target organisations that you are interested to work for. Briefly include your current career or study circumstances and any specialised professional abilities. Be specific about the type of job you are interested in being considered for.
2. Why you want this job Explain how your qualification and career plan match the job.

The details you provide should show that you have done your research and understand what the job entail, what the company and industry are looking for. Do not copy sentences from their website.
3. Your specialist skills that are relevant to the job Identify employer needs and the value you can bring to the organisation with the skills you can offer. Describe your specialist skills - relevant qualifications, experiences, achievements and skills as your selling point. Give examples to support your claims.

Briefly describe your course (if not finished include your finishing date), majors or specialisations and results if they are strong.
4. Your general skills that are relevant to the job List your general skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, initiative and enterprise, problem solving, planning and organising, self-management, technology.

Give examples from all your experiences - team projects, paid work, voluntary work, community activities or sport to provide evidence.
5. Closing Refer to your resume and any attachments.

Say you are interested in an interview and when you are available. For cold contact letters, say when you will call to follow up.

Finish on a positive note and thank the employer for their time.

Format and style

  • One A4 typed page with margins not too narrow
  • 10-12 point standard fonts (eg Times New Roman, Arial)
  • Plain business English (avoid abbreviations, jargon and slang)
  • 100% accurate spelling and grammar
  • Short concise sentences (avoid chunky paragraphs)
  • Clear structure - one main idea per paragraph
  • White space between paragraphs
  • A positive tone (do not include your weaknesses)

Check the document

Monash University Gippsland students studying at Federation University, view details on services provided.

Resources

Sample cover letters

Defining your general skills