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Should you include a cover letter in your job application?

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay


With nearly every great resume comes a well-written, persuasive cover letter. They can often make or break your chances in landing that dream role, and are typically the most personalised, yet challenging elements in crafting a job application.

But does every recruiter need them?

Below, we outline the importance of cover letters, the information each one needs, and when your resume needs one most.

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

A cover letter allows you to further explain why you’re best fit for the job. It gives you the opportunity of selling yourself in a more detailed, narrative format – guiding employers through your relevant experience and employment history and offering further proof of why you’re the ideal candidate.

As such, cover letters can help your resume stand out from the pile (potentially boosting those with little to no experience), and can even offer employers a glimpse of your character and personality. They also demonstrate your keen interest in the role, showing recruiters that you were willing to go the extra mile to grab their attention.

What should you include in a cover letter?

  1. Your contact information.
  2. Details on the role and company.
  3. Your (relevant) qualifications and employment history.
  4. Appropriate keywords, salutation, and closing statements.

1. Your contact information.

As with resumes, every cover letter requires your basic contact information. These are usually placed in the heading area of the document, and typically include your full name, e-mail address, and phone number. (Additional details may also include your LinkedIn profile and mailing address.) At the end of the header, be sure to include the current date.

2. Details on the role and company.

Ensure you know the basics of who and what you’re applying for. Before starting your letter, include the name of the addressee (usually the hiring manager or the HR director) if possible, followed by their department and company address. This allows your letter to feel much more personalised, helping it stand out.

Be sure you’ve also done enough research on the company to address the requirements of your role, and how your specific skills can benefit their business. This shows you’ve done the legwork in truly getting to know their brand, further demonstrating your interest.

3. Your (relevant) qualifications and employment history.

man on the phone looking at documents

In detailing your potential as a candidate, make sure to outline the relevant qualifications and experience you have for the role. Explain how your current skill sets, knowledge, and education are valuable to the company, and give specific examples where possible.

For instance, rather than simply stating how your communication skills would be “beneficial” to a sales role – give details on any previous experience you may have in customer service, working in teams, and dealing with high-pressure workplaces.

4. Appropriate keywords, salutation, and closing statements.

With recruiters increasingly automating the hiring process, it’s important to use the appropriate keywords in your cover letter. These are the words or phrases related to your role that are most likely to be searched for by online applicant tracking systems. For example, it may help to use terms such as “CSS”, “Javascript”, and “coding” when applying for a role in web design.

Additionally, be sure to choose appropriate greeting and closing statements. It may help researching your company to decide how formal you should be, as this often varies with the organisation’s culture. Generally, phrases such as “Dear [Name]”, “Regards”, and “Sincerely” are acceptable.  

When is it important to include a cover letter?

  1. The extra information is crucial.
  2. Having personal connections with the company.
  3. Addressing gaps and potential concerns.
  4. The job offer requires it.

1. The extra information is crucial.

As mentioned, cover letters grant you the opportunity of explaining your qualifications, experience, and interest in further detail. This can be especially helpful when you’re applying from a different state, region, or country; allowing you to provide your reasons for relocating and when you’ll be available in the area for an interview.

If it’s a “dream” job or organisation you’re applying for, attaching a cover letter to your resume (unless stated otherwise) can also help you make a stand-out impression – giving you a chance to detail your personal connection to the role and the company’s vision. This also gives you an opportunity to show off your creativity and writing skills.

2. Having personal connections with the company.

virtual interview

If you’ve got a contact or referral from the company itself, having a cover letter to explain this can help keep you top of mind. Include details such as your professional relationship with the contact and why they thought you’d be a good fit for the role. If you’ve already been introduced to the employer or hiring manager, be sure to mention this.

Additionally, if you’ve already had previous experience with the company (whether through an internship or peripherally as a supplier or competitor) detailing this in your cover letter can help grab the recruiter’s attention.

It’s best to be transparent and mention any history you may have with the company now – rather than having your employer discover it later.  

3. Addressing gaps and potential concerns.

A cover letter also helps you provide reasonable explanations for employment gaps, short-term positions, incomplete qualifications, and any other irregularities in your resume. Leaving these up for interpretation can potentially have employers assume the worst, so it’s important to take the reins and explain your career history on your own terms.

This shows that you’re a proactive communicator and allows you to clear up any potential misunderstandings – helping you detail your past experiences in the best light possible.

4. The job offer requires it.

Finally, a cover letter is crucial if the job offer requires one. Failing to follow basic instructions early in the hiring game can lead to recruiters overlooking or dismissing your application altogether.

As with resumes, be sure to spend time proofreading your cover letter, ensuring all typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes are non-existent. There’s nothing worse in a job application than claiming you’ve got a “fine eye for detail”, while subsequently misspelling the company name.

Conversely, if the recruiter specifically requests for no cover letter, then it’s important to respect their wishes and forego this step. Like with any job application, following up after a week of applying can help reassure them that you’re still interested, and may even further nudge your resume to their attention.

While creative, well-written resumes are important to any job application – having the right skillset is critical, too. Upskilled currently offers a wide range of courses spanning Australia’s top industries; from short courses in marketing to fully-fledged diplomas in IT. Have the stand-out skills to match a quality cover letter, and enquire with us on a course today.
 
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