Cover Letters

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a short, one page letter that accompanies your résumé and any other application documents when:

  • Applying for an advertised job vacancy
  • When writing a cold canvassing application to express interest in a work opportunity that may become available in the future.

How to Present a Cover Letter

Cover letters are usually typed on a Word document. If you are submitting your application in hard copy form (e.g., posting it to an employer or personally delivering it to an employer), you should print your cover letter on plain white A4 paper. If you are emailing your cover letter with other job application documentation, send your letter in Word.doc, Word.docx format, or other format that the employer specifies as acceptable. Make sure the font style and size used for your cover letter matches that used in your résumé and any other typed job application documentation you are required to submit.

Some employers specifically request a handwritten cover letter. When preparing a handwritten cover letter, it should be neatly handwritten on unlined white business letter paper in professional business letter format.

Tip: To help keep your handwriting straight on unlined paper, use paper clips to attach a sheet of lined paper behind your plain sheet of business letter paper. You should be able to see the lines behind your letter paper and this should enable you to keep your handwriting straight.

Layout and Content

An example of business letter format and cover letter content is shown below.

Business letter format for a Cover Letter

Your Name
Your Email
Your Mobile Number
Date of the letter (e.g.,12thFebruary, 20XX)

Name of the person to whom you are writing the letter (whenever possible)

Salutation (e.g., Dear Ms xxxxxxxxx)

Optional Subject line identifying the position you are applying for - be sure to include the position number if there is one

Short paragraph that state that you are applying for the position and where you found the position. Add a strong, brief statement highlighting your fit for the role.

Middle paragraphs outlining your suitability for the role, i.e., how you meet the employer’s needs and expressing your interest in working for the business or organisation. You may wish to include your best selling points for the role as bullet points.

A paragraph indicating any documents that you have included with the cover letter.

A paragraph reiterating your interest in, and fit for the role and expressing interest in an interview.

Yours sincerely

Your signature

Your name

As indicated by the cover letter content guidelines in the sample above, a cover letter must be tailored to the job or work opportunity concerned.

If you are writing a cold canvassing cover letter, i.e., a letter to attach to your résumé and post, email or personally deliver to an employer to express interest in any future jobs that may become available, it is always a good idea for you to follow up. Following up after submitting a cold canvassing application:

  • Shows the employer that you are genuinely interested in working in the business or organisation.
  • Puts you in control of your job search. Instead of waiting to hear back from an employer, you are being proactive following up with the employer.
  • Gives you an opportunity to network with employers and demonstrate your fit for their organization and the type of role you are seeking.

If you plan to use this approach for cold canvassing applications, you may wish to consider letting the employer know in advance that you will be following up. This can be done by including a short sentence in the last paragraph of your cold canvassing cover letter stating that you will contact the employer after a certain period (e.g., approximately a week or two weeks) to see if there are any suitable job openings coming up. If you do this, be sure to contact the employer at the specified time, otherwise you may appear to be unreliable!

Tip: Keep a digital version of your cover letters. You can use old cover letters for ideas on how to write current cover letters tailored to the role you are applying for.

Other Information on Cover Letters

Many online job boards and other career websites have advice on how to write cover letters. Some useful web links appear below:

  • Youth Central on cover letters
  • CareerOne – select the link to cover letters.
  • Skillsroad on cover letters (and résumés).
  • Job Jumpstart - you can download worksheets on how to write a cover letter and tailor your job application and also a cover letter quality check list.

Sample Cover Letters and Templates

Sample cover letter - responding to an advertised vacancy. pdf format. Microsoft Word format. Rich Text format.

Sample cover letter - cold canvassing/cold calling cover letter. pdf format. Microsoft Word format. Rich Text format.