How to write a cover letter: Tips, examples & template main region

How to Write a Cover Letter - Template & Tips New Zealand

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Recruiters and hiring managers often receive hundreds of applications for each job. If yours is to gain the attention it deserves, a cover letter can help you stand out and instantly demonstrate the relevancy of your skills and the value you could bring to the employer. Taking the time and effort to write a cover letter also positions you as a proactive candidate who is genuinely interested in the role you’ve applied for.
That’s why it is very important not to rush this document – it’s also why we provide the below cover letter template and advice, so that you can improve your chances of securing your ideal job.


Cover letter advice


What is a cover letter?

Before we begin – let’s go back to basics. A cover letter serves as a personal introduction to you as a professional. It most commonly takes the form of a personalised note to add to an online application or an email attaching your CV.

It enables you to briefly summarise why you are the right person for the job, before the reader goes on to find out more about you in your CV. It should whet the appetite of the reader with details that aren’t copied from your resume.

Follow our tips for how to write a cover letter or download our cover letter template.

Why write a cover letter? 

The principle of a successful cover letter is simple: it needs to be sufficiently interesting to an employer to leave them feeling compelled to find out more about your skills and experience by reading your resume, before deciding to call you in for an interview. But not all candidates will make the effort to write a tailored and personalised cover letter. 

By writing a cover letter, it’s therefore more likely that you will catch the attention of the reader. This gives you a greater likelihood of being shortlisted for interview.

How long should a cover letter be? 

While the purpose of the cover letter has never changed, the way it is presented and submitted has evolved over time. Today, cover letters take the form of a personalised note to add to your online application or an email to which you attach your CV.
Many hiring managers do not spend a great deal of time reading a cover letter, so keep it to around five paragraphs in length. This is enough to communicate that you are genuinely interested in the job and why you are particularly well suited to it.  Whether you’re using our cover letter template or not, be brief so you don’t overwhelm the reader with details that really should appear on your resume instead. 

Best way to layout a cover letter 

As you’ll see below and in our cover letter template, when writing your cover letter you need to use a clean layout to make your content easy to read. Begin with a clear subject line that clearly shows why you’re applying for the job. Address your letter the right person, then create an attention-grabbing hook. Next, write about what you could bring to the role, being careful to align your skills with those required in the job. Make sure you highlight your suitable skills, before signing off professionally. 
Avoid graphics or unusual fonts. Instead, use a standard font like Arial, which is readable and clean. This isn’t just about making the right impression on hiring managers – the automated scanning systems used by applicant tracking systems can sometimes struggle with unusual fonts.  
Don’t forget to also tailor your cover letter, rather than use a standard letter that you’ve edited. To help, here 

How to write a cover letter

1. Do your research

Go through the job advertisement or position description and underline the keywords used to describe the skills, training and experience sought. While you should use these throughout, be careful not to keyword-stuff your cover letter in the hope that your application will get picked up by applicant tracking software (ATS) – it is possible to overdo your use of keywords!

Your research shouldn’t end there though. Review the organisation’s website and social media profiles, its executives’ social media profiles and any online employee reviews. This will give you an indication of the appropriate tone to use in your cover letter and the points you should include, bearing in mind such factors as the organisation’s industry, culture and values.

2. Tailor your cover letter for the job you’re going for

As mentioned, not all candidates make the effort to write a tailored and personalised cover letter that communicates why you are genuinely interested in, and suitable for, the job you are applying for. This means your cover letter must be tailored rather than a standard message that you’ve edited. If you do this, you’re more likely to catch the attention of the reader.
Certainly don’t just copy and paste your cover letters for every position you apply for – make it personal and targeted every time. It’ll be obvious to an employer if you’ve just edited a few words of the same cover letter that you send to everyone else, which may suggest you have little real interest in the vacancy.

3. Begin with a clear subject line

Since you will most likely email your cover letter, begin with a strong subject line that gets straight to the point and conveys why you’re applying for this job. For example, “Experienced senior manager for X position”. 

4. Address your cover letter to the right person 

Find out the name of the recruiter or hiring manager so you can address your cover letter to them personally, rather than a generic and unimpressive “To whom it may concern”. This information is easier to find than it ever has been before, so there’s no excuse for getting names wrong or not addressing your cover letter to the correct person.

5. Write an attention-grabbing introduction 

Think of a strong opening paragraph to hook the reader in. The first sentence of your cover letter will either grab the hiring manager’s attention or lose it, so it needs to powerfully demonstrate that you understand what the organisation requires. It should highlight your background and get straight to the point. 
One way to do this is to communicate your unique selling points (USP) that will help you solve the hiring manager’s problems, such as relevant industry know-how, skills, experience and achievements, instead of the generic “I’m applying for the role of XYZ.” The aim here is to describe how your skills, education and experience fit the job perfectly. 
Another option is to mention an existing connection, if you have one. For example, if you’ve come across this opportunity via a friend or have a connection with the organisation, mention it. Maybe you were previously introduced to the hiring manager by this person, because they thought you were a good fit for the role? Or perhaps you crossed paths as an employee at one of the organisation’s suppliers or competitors?

6. Add evidence of your successes 

Next, in one to two paragraphs, write about what you would bring to the organisation, role and opportunity. Match your skills and experience with what’s listed in the job description as key requirements.  Support this with specific and relevant examples of your achievements to demonstrate you have what the employer is looking for. Remember, the recruiter or hiring manager is interested in concrete facts not quirkiness or clichés. The aim is to paint a picture of success so that they cannot possibly pass your application over without opening your resume.
One great way to do this is to include relevant facts, an example or a case study pertinent to the job you are applying for. This allows you to provide further depth to your application by highlighting a key success and evidence of your ability to succeed. It also allows the reader to easily picture you adding similar value in their workplace. Such demonstrated evidence of your experience and skills is hugely important to stand out.  

7. Highlight key skills 

Then, draw the reader’s attention to the skills that make you a suitable candidate for the job. You can use bullet points here to ensure you write succinctly while making it easy for the reader to find the pertinent information.  Don’t miss this opportunity to sell yourself and your skills, while clearly showing why you want this job. 

8. Sign off professionally

Towards the end of your cover letter, thank the reader for their consideration and confirm your availability. Sign off with a power phrase such as, “I have attached my resume and would welcome the opportunity to speak to you further about this opportunity.” Or, "I look forward to hearing from you to discuss this role further." 
Then, as you’ll see in our cover letter template, close with the formal and widely accepted “Kind regards” or “Yours sincerely”. Under your name, make sure you include your contact information, including phone number, email address and LinkedIn URL.

9. Review your cover letter 

Some hiring managers pay very close attention to cover letters because they view them as a strong reflection of each candidate’s written communication skills. Generally, a cover letter is not proofread as often as a resume, so it can signal more accurately the level of writing skills you’d bring to the role. 
So, spell check and ensure the formatting is correct. Run an electronic spell check so that the program can flag up obvious issues. Also, check that any formatting in Word translates properly into the email or online form. Break any intimidating blocks of text into more readable paragraphs and bullet points. If possible, ask a friend to review your cover letter.

What NOT to include in a cover letter

Excessive details

When writing a cover letter, don’t drone on – you must keep it short and succinct. The reader is interested in concrete facts. Remember, the company hiring manager will read your resume for more detailed information.

Repeat your CV

Your cover letter should complement not replicate your CV and LinkedIn profile, while supporting and enhancing your story. Rather than repeat details from your resume, describe what it is about your experience and skills that make you especially suitable for this job.
However, be sure to include all key details on your resume first and foremost, just in case the hiring manager skims your cover letter. A cover letter, after all, is not a resume replacement.  

Don’t go overboard with the flattery

You don’t want to come across as insecure or insincere. Professionalism, maturity and authenticity are vital qualities to communicate from the beginning of your relationship with the employer.

Don’t write in the third person

A cover letter is, after all, a letter written by you and addressed directly to an employer. You are using this document to sell yourself, and while a cover letter’s tone of voice should be professional, it should also be sufficiently conversational to engage the reader and communicate your interest in the role. The cover letters of job seekers who don't use first person pronouns lack impact and can read like someone else wrote it for them. So, write in the first person. 

Final tips around how to write a cover letter

  • Keep it succinct and relevant. Your cover letter should not exceed five to six paragraphs – and certainly not one page.
  • State what your motivation is behind your application.
  • Just as you would in your CV, use strong verbs to demonstrate action and accomplishments, such as "organise" or "supervise".
  • Optimise the subject line, if you can. Also check the job description again, in case the employer asks applicants to include something specific in the subject line.
  • If you are applying for a job through an online application rather than email, you may like to put your cover letter and resume into the same document so that one does not get separated from the other. 
  • Follow up your job application with a telephone call. A recruiter and hiring manager’s inbox can get very full, so a simple call can prompt them to open your email and read your cover letter and resume if they haven’t already done so. 
Remember, our cover letter template is free to download and can be used as another way to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager and encourage them to more closely review your resume. Good luck.

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