How to Write a Cover LetterBy Canadajobs.com Staff
Having a great cover letter is your first step in getting hired. It is the initial evaluation of your skills, your resume, and you as a worker and as a person.
Creating a great cover letter is easy if you know what you should focus on. Here are some things to remember when writing a cover letter.
Break it Down:
Your cover letter should have three main thoughts. The first is to introduce yourself, and the position you are applying for. The second should be about your skills and how they can be applied to the company you are applying to, and the third point should be a closing statement on your desire for an interview, etc.
In the first section, make sure it's clear right away what position you are applying for. Make sure that, along with the position, you list where you saw it advertised and include any reference numbers for the position. An example of this could be: "Please accept my resume as application for the position of Bilingual Customer Service Representative (Job Reference # xyz123) which was advertised in Customer Service Weekly."
In the second section, focus on your skills and experience. Make sure you highlight the skills you have as they refer to the job advertisement. You don't need to include all your skills and experience, because you will be mentioning those in your resume. You don't want to overload the reader with non-essential information. Keep this section concise and crisp.
Tell the reader what you can bring to the company. Discuss your experience as it relates to the job advertisement. Make sure you remember to place emphasis on your skills that illustrate that this job is for you. But remember to keep it focussed and not too long.
The final section of your cover letter deals with how they can contact you. Make sure you list the various methods of contacting you and that all your contact information is accurate.
Keep it Simple:
Your cover letter should not include long paragraphs and complicated sentence structure. The human resources person reading your cover letter may just briefly scan it, looking for key points of interest to see if you are qualified for the job, before they read your resume. If your important points are buried in long sentences, they will likely be overlooked. If you have a skill that's crucial to the job you are applying for, consider putting it in its own sentence so that it's easily seen by the reader.
The formatting should also be simple and easy to read. Remember, you are applying for a job and sending a business letter, so keep it professional looking by using a plain font on white, crisp paper.
Keep it Short:
If your information is well written and concise, it will be easier to read. And that's the first step in getting hired. Keep your sentences focussed and your writing clear. The maximum length of your cover letter should be one page - not a tightly-packed one page, but an easy to read with lots of white space, one page.
Read it Over:
Is it friendly and clear? Will the reader be able to easily identify you as a great candidate? Have you included your key skills as they are identified in the job advertisement? Is it free of spelling mistakes? Have you taken the time to research who you should send the cover letter to and have you addressed it specifically to them? If you take care of these details, you will increase your chances of having your cover letter read. Remember as well, to tailor each cover letter to each job you apply to.
Having a great cover letter will help you in your job search. It's the first thing a potential employer will see so make sure it's a great reflection of you and your skills.
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Preparing your application
Each job advertisement is unique. It’s important to pay close attention to the instructions in the advertisement.
Preparing your cover letter or screening question responses
Your application (cover letter and resume) will open or close the door for you in a selection process.
In order to be a successful candidate you must follow the specific instructions for the process.
How to demonstrate that you meet a qualification
The following examples are provided to explain how to identify the skills and experience you have gained in the military and how these meet an essential qualification identified in a job advertisement.
Experience using computers including keyboarding and operating various software packages such as email and word processing in an office setting.
In my position over the last 3 years as the Chief Clerk for 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR), I have been required to use a variety of computer applications in the performance of my duties. For example:
- Outlook - I use this email system on a daily basis to communicate with various Regimental and Support Base contacts. I also use it to book my calendar and provide me with notifications for meetings, events and other activities. I use the calendar features to schedule time for training sessions with the clerks who report to me within the Regiment.
- MS Word - I use this word processing package daily to prepare correspondence and reports going to both internal and external contacts such as Regimental and Support Base staff. This requires me to use my keyboarding skills to create these documents.
Experience in supervising staff.
I was a Naval Weapons Technician (NWT) in the Royal Canadian Navy from date to date. In that role, I supervised junior ranks (AS-01/02 equivalent) while leading a team of ten other technicians. As a senior journeyman weapons technician from date to date, I was also responsible for leading the Naval Weapons Department as directed by my supervisor, the Petty Officer 1st Class. My responsibilities included assigning tasks to my team and monitoring the completion of those tasks, such as preventative maintenance routines and corrective actions for trouble-shooting of onboard weapon systems. I also conducted on-the-job training, ensuring that junior rank training was completed within the allotted time frame and that my team members were prepared to begin their next phase of national level training. I was involved in the Performance Evaluation Report (PER) process in which I monitored staff’s performance throughout the year, completed written evaluations and conducted regular individual performance reviews with team members.
Experience in the provision of client service including providing information or clarification to clients.
I held a position as an Information Technology (IT) Help Desk service agent with the Signal Squadron at Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown from date to date. In this role, I provided direct service to clients throughout the Base on IT service issues and IT resources available to them. My responsibilities included providing clients with information on how to trouble-shoot certain issues over the phone, remotely accessing client computers to solve problems with them on the phone, face-to-face meetings with some clients to advise them on the physical configuration of their IT resources, and clarifying proper use and regulations of Department of National Defence IT assets. Interaction with a client would typically start with a phone call from a client asking for a certain software application to be downloaded to their workstation. I first consulted the regulations to determine if it was software that the client was permitted to use. If the software was permitted, I remotely accessed the client’s workstation to install the software. If the software was not permitted, I explained the reasons, and if possible, suggested another application that would allow the client to perform the necessary tasks.
Need more information?
The Veterans in the Public Service Unit (VPSU) was created by Veterans Affairs Canada to help Veterans understand and succeed in the application process for public service jobs. If you have any questions or require assistance, please contact the VPSU by sending a message through My VAC Account or by calling the Department at 1-866-522-2122.
- Date modified:
Some processes require you to explain how your skills and experience directly relate to specific qualifications. Provide specific details about your accomplishments, including dates, places, projects and files. Since the people reading your response may not have military experience, try to provide plain language explanation about your role, particularly when it was a group effort. See examples.
You can also review your resume to ensure it clearly identifies the skills and experience you have that match the merit criteria on the job advertisement.
The job advertising system doesn’t have the features of a word processing program. This means it doesn’t have spell check, so you may wish to write your cover letter and resume using a word processing program. When you’re finished, you can copy and paste your text into the system. On the other hand, the system may not recognize any formatting that you used in the word processing program. This means you may want to use other strategies, for example to ensure that your headers are clearly identified, some people use “ALL CAPS” for the headers, followed by a space, then begin the paragraph. You can test the result using a ‘notepad’ app on your computer, which also works with text-only information. You can do a quick check at the end to see if the final formatting of the information you entered looks acceptable.