Career Tips

How to Write a Winning Application Letter!

Posted: 27/11/2013

Application letters and cover letters both require specific information in a particular format and it is essential to know what that involves. In this article, we carefully go through each step so you’ll be absolutely confident that you’ll make a good impression! There are several important issues you’ll need to address to apply for your job correctly. First of all, because every job application is different you should make sure you read the instructions extremely carefully. You might be asked to submit your application by email, post or through an online form. For written applications, they should include the following:

  • Only a resume (also known as a CV)
  • A resume and a cover letter
  • An application form
  • A response to specific selection criteria
  • A resume that includes information showing you meet the selection criteria
  • A letter that explains that you can meet the requirements of the position
  • A combination of any of the above

Application letter or cover letter?
With both letters, the format is similar but the difference is in the detail. An application letter is where you apply for a position with all the required information given on the letter. A cover letter is one that accompanies your resume, responding to the selection criteria along with an application form.

Cover letters
These are not so important if you are applying for government positions as no formal assessment is made of it. That being said, it pays to present yourself in a positive light. A cover letter should be less than one page long. Some agencies will specify that they don’t want a cover letter, but they will still make you fill in an application form.

Application letters
When there are no selection criteria to be addressed, application letters are very important -especially when you are applying for a position after seeing an advertisement. Once again, always make sure you read the advertisement carefully, defining adequately what is required and ensure that you respond as well as you can. An application letter is more detailed than a cover letter because it contains all the information that an employer needs so that they can decide if you are worthy of an interview. Because so much information is required, an application letter could possibly be two or three pages long. Also, you might be asked to attach a resume.

Formatting an application letter

  • Starting at the top left corner, you must write your name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Type the name and address of the HR recipient. This information should be easily found in the advertisement.
  • If there is no name in the advertisement, simply write to the department. If you wish, you can safely right ‘To the manager of human resources’  or ‘To whom it may concern’.
  • Write the title and position number of the vacancy in bold.
  • Mention where you saw the advertisement in your opening paragraph.
  • In the second paragraph, write a quick summary of where you are working now and what you are doing.
  • In the third paragraph, you should mention your suitability to the position by virtue of your qualifications or experience.
  • After this, write a list of your relevant competencies.
  • If you wish, you could add a paragraph indicating that you have investigated the position or the organisation and tell them how you think you could make a contribution. You can add a statement that indicates that you have confidence in yourself and your ability to do the advertised position well.
  • When closing the letter, state that you look forward to meeting them at an interview. Remember – thank them for their time!
  • Offer to be seen at their convenience – don’t start stipulating your availability!
  • Date & sign the letter.
  • Send your letter off a few days early to allow for delivery.

TIP:
If you open your letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’  close with ‘Yours faithfully’. If you open your letter with dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Brown close with ‘Yours sincerely’.

How to present your letter
When writing a letter that will accompany your resume and any response for selection criteria, there are a few things to remember regarding the letter itself and the paper used:

  • Use plain A4 paper
  • Keep it brief – one page is all you need for government positions in particular. However, if you haven’t been asked to respond to any selection criteria it may be necessary to write a little more than just one page.
  • Keep the tone appropriate. Don’t be too formal or use jargon. The idea is to be friendly and professional but not casual.
  • Remove vague words! ‘Fairly’, ‘a lot’, or ‘involved in’ need to be replaced with something more succinct.
  • Type your letter unless told otherwise. Some companies occasionally ask for handwritten letters so they can assess your handwriting.
  • Use action words to describe your skills accomplishments. E.g. say ‘I have/I am/I can’
  • Use linen paper or resume paper and choose a professional font. Make sure the font is no smaller than 12 points.

Most importantly, never use the same cover letter for different applications. You must make sure that each letter is targeted to the specific job advertised. Choice of paper Choosing textured paper is a practice that is often done for applications to private companies, so this may be an option if you think it’s appropriate. You can purchase these from news agencies or stationary firms. Just make sure you use the same texture for all documents.

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