Explain to the employer the purpose of your letter, why you’re applying for the job, how you meet the job criteria, and how they can contact you for an interview.
[your street number and name]
[your suburb, state and postcode]
[title and name of addressee]
[his/her position title if known]
Dear [insert Ms/Mr Xxx or Sir/Madam]
Application for position of [name of role], Reference Number [if given]
Paragraph 1: start by referring to the position you’re applying for (or “I am applying for the above position” if formatted as above) and where you saw the advertisement or heard about the role.
Paragraph 2: explain why you’re interested in the role and the organisation. In order to do this, you need to have thoroughly read the selection criteria relating to the role and researched the organisation using their website, news sites, industry contacts, and so forth. If you’re applying through a recruitment agency and don't know the name of the hiring organisation, you can research the industry instead. Try to avoid clichés and make your interest in the organisation appear personal and genuine. A brief summary of your key selling points can be included at this point to highlight your ‘organisational fit’.
eg, GreenBuild’s recent exhibit at the Sustainable Cities festival was of particular interest to me as I have a passion for sustainable development. My skills in residential design developed through my Bachelor of Design in Architecture, along with my thorough knowledge of sustainable building practices acquired over two years as a project officer with the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage, would allow me to make a meaningful contribution to your mission to create Sydney’s greenest housing developments.
Paragraph 3: this is where you provide evidence as to how your qualifications, skills and experience meet the selection criteria for the position. You can draw evidence from a range of experiences if relevant, including academic studies, extracurricular activities, placements, volunteer roles and paid employment history, including casual work. This section where you address the selection criteria should be the longest section in your letter. It may be necessary to divide it into more than one paragraph.
eg, My strong time management skills have been developed through balancing part time work at Bob’s Café with volunteering commitments at my local community centre while meeting all assignment deadlines to maintain a distinction average in my studies.
Paragraph 4: this is where you express the hoped-for outcome of your letter. End on a positive note and a call to further action. You may want to reiterate how your relevant strengths make you a suitable candidate for the role and mention your availability for interview. Refer to any attachments such as resume, transcript, application form, etc.
[your name typed]
[Note: Use ‘Yours sincerely’ for letters beginning with ‘Dear plus Addressee’s Name’ and ‘Yours faithfully’ for letters beginning with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’]
Speculative cover letters are used when you are proactively seeking opportunities directly with an employer, rather than responding to advertised vacancies. For speculative letters, follow the format above, with the following adjustments:
Opening paragraph: If you’ve been referred by a friend or colleague known to the recruiter, mention this. As no job has been advertised, state that you’re seeking employment opportunities in a particular occupational area or role.
Final paragraph: You may wish to include your intention to contact the employer on a particular day to follow up. Make sure that you keep your promise by noting the date in your diary and contacting the addressee on the mentioned date, as planned.