When applying for jobs with employer sponsorship in Australia, or your first job after receiving your PR or working visa, your cover letter is the second most important part of your overall job application (behind your resume), and in some cases, the most important.
A well-written cover letter that is straight to the point and relevant to the job you are applying for can act as an excellent support for your CV/resume. A poorly written cover letter can close the doors to your applications prematurely, especially if you do not, for example, approach your visa sponsorship requirement effectively.
A few key tips for writing a positively impacting cover letter for your situation are set out below.
Don’t Write an Essay
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when applying for jobs in Australia is to write a cover letter that is unnecessarily long. Keep your cover letter short and to the point and aim for half-to-one page in length. Only include relevant points that support your application to the specific job you are applying for, and don’t fill the letter with information that has nothing to do with the job that has been described.
Tailor Your Cover Letter to the Job You’re Applying For
When you write your cover letter, it is OK to have a standard letter that you are sending out to a couple of different jobs. However, make sure that you tailor the letter to each individual job that you apply for.
A lot of people make the mistake of using the same letter over and over and this can lead to embarrassing errors, such as sending out letters that are addressed to the wrong person, that are referring to the wrong job title, and/or that are full of information that is not relevant to the job they are applying for. Make sure that you take care to check each letter before sending it out so that it is tailored to the specific job and company that is offering the position.
Address the Selection Criteria
If there are specific selection criteria the employer has stated in their job advert, or the advert refers to key attributes, skills and/or experience that the employer is looking for in their ideal candidate; then you should make sure that you address how these specific items relate to yourself.
Hiring managers are looking for those key skills; otherwise they wouldn’t have listed them in their adverts. If you do not make the employer aware of your ‘match ’to what they are looking for, you will likely not be considered for the position.
Further, when addressing the selection criteria in your cover letter; back-up each of your statements with a brief example. For instance, instead of stating, “I am highly organised and work well to tight deadlines”; support this statement with why, such as: “I am highly organised and work well under pressure; and have demonstrated this in my previous roles through my adoption of techniques such as proper planning, prioritisation and delegation of work load where necessary”. Now you are making a powerful statement against the selection criteria!
Keep a Clear and Concise Layout
Just as in the case with your Australian CV/resume; when applying for jobs in Australia, your cover letter should be clear, concise and to the point. You need to keep in mind that hiring managers tend to scan CVs and cover letters for key points before going back to read the information in more detail (if they are inspired enough to do so).
Don’t be afraid to highlight certain relevant points in bold, italics or even set out your strengths and examples against the job description in bullet points – this makes the information very easy to process when scanning the cover letter, and draws the reader’s eye to the information that is important. Refrain from using long, drawn out descriptions, unless you are asked to address the selection criteria in a more comprehensive or formal manner, such as with Government applications. (Government applications are whole other topic, and require a more in-depth approach, which you will find in the book, ‘Australian Cover Letters: Steps to Creating an Effective Australian Cover Letter’, available on Amazon, or free to Serious Job Seeker members or higher.
‘Australian Cover Letters: Steps to Creating an Effective Australian Cover Letter’, by Nadine Myers – available on Amazon
The majority of hiring managers in Australia will appreciate a traditional letter format with your name, address and contact number and/or Skype ID, email address, their company name, address and the name of the correct person you are applying to all at the top. Then, underneath your address, start your letter with “Dear Mr/Mrs/etc.”, selecting the relevant title and using their name if you have it; including a subject heading outlining the job you are applying for underneath, followed by the body/content, and finally, signed off by yourself. This shows respect, indicates that you value presentation and demonstrates your skill level with Word processing.
It is also acceptable to write your cover letter in an email, these days; however it shows more effort and importance if you take the time to write a formal letter as discussed above, and attach it as a Word document. Sometimes it’s the little things that determine whether you are screened out or short listed for an interview.
Furthermore, where you can, use Microsoft Word documents for your cover letters (and Australian CV). The majority of Australian employers and recruiters do not have Apple devices, and although other programs may provide better-looking CVs and cover letters, your potential employer may not have that program available, and therefore will not be able to open your letter and CV; or worse– they can open the document/s but the formatting is showing up completely out of sync. This could mean an instant ‘strike out’! Microsoft Word is the safest option with all of your documents. Australian recruiters particularly prefer Word over PDF documents.
Spelling and Grammar
This may seem obvious; however, you should really take care with spelling and grammar in your job applications, particularly when you are from a non-English speaking country. This is even more so important when apply for jobs with visa sponsorship where written communication is important. If you can’t illustrate that you can write a simple letter without making spelling mistakes and using incorrect grammar, you will make a bad impression from the start and may not get the opportunity to make up for it at the interview stage.
Always do spelling and grammar checks before sending your application, and where possible, have a trusted friend or family member run their eyes over your application before sending.
NB – Be sure to set your proofing language in MS Word to Australian English, so that you can ensure the correct Australian spelling and grammar in your cover letter and CV.
State What You’re Looking For
Don’t forget, when you’re applying for a job with an organisation, you’re also assessing them on whether they are the type of organisation you are looking for. By stating what kind of organisation you are ideally looking for, you are putting the ‘ball back in the hiring manager’s court’ to assess whether they are up to your standards! This can be very powerful.
An example of this kind of statement is, “I am ideally looking for a company that values its employees, and demonstrates this through supporting professional development, offering career progression or succession planning, having a flexible work place, and a friendly and positive working environment”. You could then follow up your statement with an impression you have received about this company possibly being on track with meeting your criteria, such as, “from my research, company X appears to have this kind of culture, and I look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about your organisation and discussing this role in more detail”.
Always include your availability for attending telephone / Skype and/or face-to-face interviews for each role you are applying for. If done correctly, this can increase your chance of being considered for the role, especially if you show that you are prepared to attend serious interviews in Australia. The majority of employers will prefer to meet with potential employees face-to-face before hiring/sponsoring them (where possible), and being available in this regard may open more doors for you.
For face-to-face interviews, it is best if you can attend an interview within 2 weeks, or you may not be considered for an interview. Alternatively, you can state in your letter that you can ‘attend a face-to-face interview with reasonable notice’, indicating that the employer would have to be reasonable in allowing you to get organised with work and visas etc., in order to come out to Australia for an interview, without coming out and giving them a specific timeframe.
Further, you should also include your availability to commence work if the Australian employer decided to offer you a position. This means including your notice period with your current employer. Most employers will expect a notice period of around one month, so I recommend not making your notice period too much longer than this or this could also ‘knock you out of the running’ of being considered for the role. After all, the employer wants to fill the position now, not three months or more into the future.
You may feel it appropriate at the beginning of the letter to state why you are now on the market for a new job – whether it is that you are seeking new challenges, or putting your newly completed qualifications to use etc. However, we advise that you refrain from stating your reason if it is that you have been retrenched or have had your job terminated. This can create a situation for conclusions to be reached before you have the opportunity to explain yourself – something you want to avoid.
Addressing the Sponsorship Requirement
If you are seeking a job that is offering Employer Sponsorship, there are pros and cons for including your visa status / sponsorship requirement on your covering letter. I have seen clients find employer sponsorship using both methods, so there really is not one preferred way to approach visa sponsorship. However, I will briefly cover both options here and leave the decision in your hands as to which you would feel more comfortable using. You may even like to experiment with both to uncover which is the most effective method for you.
Mentioning Your Need for Sponsorship
Including your sponsorship requirement on your covering letter means that you are being up-front and honest about your situation and do not want to waste anyone’s time. By doing this, you are therefore letting the employer decide for themselves whether they would like to proceed with your application or not.
If you would like to include this information on your cover letter, the best method is to bring it up at the end of the letter, so that you at least try to ‘win over’ the employer with your suitability for the job before they consider your circumstances. You should also include the contact details of your migration agent, so that the employer can make enquiries if they would like to consider you.
If you do not have a migration agent, you are welcome to use our preferred registered migration agents, whose details you will find in the Which Visa? Using Migration Agents article.
On the flip side, stating your visa status and requirement for sponsorship on your cover letter will cause, in many cases, a rejection of your application before the employer even has an opportunity to view your CV.
Not Mentioning Your Need for Sponsorship
If you were to leave your visa status and requirement for sponsorship off your cover letter, and only address your suitability for the job, you will likely increase your chance of your application being seriously considered. The reason being: the employer has more chance of ‘falling in love’ with your skills and experience only after having thoroughly reviewed your well-presented Australian CV; and will then be more emotionally committed to you before they discover that you require employer sponsorship. If they reject you before viewing your CV – you will miss the chance of this happening.
1. Follow the steps in this section, and adapt a cover letter accordingly. 2. Visit: www.resumeaustralia.net to view and download effective Australian cover letter templates that come with matching CV templates, or check out the book available at Amazon. 3. If you are a member of this site, download the cover letter template from your dashboard.
1. Follow the steps in this section, and adapt a cover letter accordingly.
2. Visit: www.resumeaustralia.net to view and download effective Australian cover letter templates that come with matching CV templates, or check out the book available at Amazon.
3. If you are a member of this site, download the cover letter template from your dashboard.
This article is an excerpt from the Amazon #1 Best Seller, ‘Find a Job in Australia’, by Nadine Myers. Click here to purchase the full book now.