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What is a Cover Letter

A cover letter is the document which accompanies your resume. Its purpose is to match your interests and abilities with an employer's needs. This is an opportunity to expand upon key information already highlighted on your resume and/or to introduce new information which qualifies you for the position. A well-written cover letter demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively - a skill sought after by all employers. Keep in mind that the cover letter is the first thing an employers sees and it must make a good, initial impression. It makes a critical difference in an employer's estimation of your qualifications. Make sure your letter is interesting and unique, keeping in mind that the person reading it will doubtless be reading many others.

The key objectives of a cover letter are to: -

  • Inform employer of your interest in the job
  • Persuade employer of your suitability for the job
  • Make you look professional
  • Build good will
  • Obtain an interview
  • Write the structure of your interview
  • Demonstrate your writing and research skills
  • Offer a little window into your personality



  • Do match yourself to the selection criteria listed in the advertisement/position description.
  • Do focus on what you have to offer an employer.
  • Do validate your claims of skills or knowledge with an example.
  • Do be positive - use positive words like contribution and success.
  • Do make abundantly clear your enthusiasm for the job/company.
  • Do know what job you are applying for.
  • Do use action verbs to describe your transferable skills. e.g. developed, initiated.
  • Do steal phrases and words from other cover letters but realise that if you steal them from this document your cover letter will look the same as many other Swinburne students.
  • Do be capable of discussing ANY sentence you put in your cover letter.
  • Do use your cover letter as an example of the fact that you can write a professional looking business letter.
  • Do be clear and concise (as if you didn't know)
  • Do use a word processor and laser printer to produce your letter.
  • Do use simple and uncomplicated sentences.
  • Do have your cover letter checked by at least one other person before you post it.
  • Do listen to "experts" but realise that they only have highly debatable opinions.
  • Do maintain a healthy scepticism to formulas and rules when writing your cover letter.


  • Don't use negative language, e.g. apologise for something you should have done.
  • Don't sound desperate.
  • Don't continually use the pronoun 'I' - It is your cover letter, the 'I' is understood.
  • Don't bother presenting your application in a plastic folder-a staple is all that is needed.
  • Don't rehash your resume.
  • Don't expect the employer to offer careers counselling - you are meant to know what job you are applying for.

  • Don't apply for a job that the company doesn't have.

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