It should reflect the resume, and further highlight why you’re a great candidate for that job.

When a cover letter is requested as part of an application, it’s important to create a document that takes the form of a professional business letter.

► Download an example cover letter as a PDF file (104 KB)

Try to find a position description and focus on the listed duties, selection criteria and skills. Brainstorm what you have to offer that matches with these. Target your application. Research the employing company and link your motivation for applying to an interesting fact. Having more information about the company will help you write a better cover letter. Speak to people in your network who might have connections to the organisation.

  • Address all the selection criteria. Use examples from your experience. 
  • Consider the skills and experience you’ve gained through study, paid or voluntary work and leisure activities. Include those that are most relevant to the job and organisation.
  • Contact the recruiter or company if you’re unsure about what information they would prefer – give yourself the best chance to submit a successful application.

Some job advertisements ask you to “address the selection criteria”. 

  • For public sector roles, this means writing a separate document for the selection criteria – this is additional to your cover letter and resume. 
  • In the private sector, you’re expected to briefly and concisely address the selection criteria in the body of the cover letter itself.

Find out more about selection criteria.

Even if no position is advertised, it can still be productive to send an email with your resume and a cover letter that expresses your interest to an employer. For example, students who need fieldwork experience or course-related vacation work will often have to write directly to employers who may be able to offer placements. 

When writing an unsolicited letter or email, you should tailor it to the needs of the employer. Do some research and use your networks to find out what the employer might be looking for in a new recruit. 

For more information on unadvertised positions, see: Networking to get work.

Free online resource for current students

Submit your resume, cover letter or key selection criteria to this online resource and get it reviewed by an expert.