We take a look at the different types of cover letters and when to write them.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter, also known as an application letter, is a one-page document that is written to introduce yourself, your professional skills and your work history.
You shouldn’t just copy the details from your resume for a cover letter – it should supplement the resume by explaining how you’re qualified for the specific position. It should also address the key selection criteria listed by the employer.
Here, you need to focus on your major strengths and use them to convince the employer that you are a great candidate that can help them in achieving their goals.
When to write a cover letter
- The job requires a cover letter. This is usually requested in the job ad.
- Someone has recommended you. Your cover letter will establish this relationship. Add a sentence or two confirming that your contact introduced you to this job opportunity.
- To provide information not included in your resume, such as:
- Employment gaps
- Non-traditional work experience
- Changing careers
- Missing skills
If you are given a choice, always include a cover letter as it’s an asset to your application.
When not to write a letter?
- You don’t have time to write a good one. No cover letter is better than a poorly written one.
- The job ad specifically says NOT to include one. Otherwise it will show that you didn’t read the instructions carefully.
Types of cover letter
Now that we’ve discussed when to write a cover letter, it’s time to look at the different types of cover letter. Cover letters tend to follow the same structure, but each type has a slightly different purpose, so you need to tailor the content to your individual situation. The two most common types of cover letters are:
- Application cover letter. This is the traditional letter used to apply for a specific job. In these cover letters, you will answer the key selection criteria that the employer has listed in the job ad. This tends to be a longer document and is sent as an email attachment or is submitted via an online platform.
- Email cover letter. Your cover letter is the body of an email. It has the same purpose as the application cover letter, however, the tone is more casual.
There are a few other types which can be used for different purposes:
- Referral cover letter. If one of your connections refers you for a job, you’ll need to mention that person, your relationship and why they have referred you in the introduction.
- Letter of interest. You can send a letter of interest to find out if a company you’d like to work for has any current or upcoming job vacancies. In this type of letter, you’re telling the employer why you’re interested in working for them and how your skills will add value to their organisation.
- Short cover letter. A general cover letter tends to range from 300-500 words, but if you are a recent graduate, or new to the workforce, you might not have much to say about your experience. That doesn’t mean you can’t impress the employer with your skills and aspirations, however.
- Relocation cover letter. If you’re in the process of moving, or have recently moved, this is a good opportunity to communicate your situation to the employer and clear up any confusion. Without this, it might be difficult to get a new chance if you’ve moved from overseas, as many employers need to conduct a reference check with your previous employers.
Stay tuned for Part Two of Resume Academy 103, where we will dive into how to structure your cover letter and look at examples of the type of content to include.
If you’ve missed out on any of our previous blogs, catch up below: