The covering letter should outline your reasons for applying and demonstrate broadly how you meet the requirements of the position.
It is normally the first thing the selection panel will read. It is important that the covering letter looks good, sounds positive and enthusiastic, and attracts the reader's attention. It is also one way of demonstrating your written communication skills.
- What to include
- Typed or handwritten
- Positive tone
What to include
It is recommended that you include the following information in your covering letter:
- Your address
- Date of your application
- Title and reference number of the position for which you're applying
- Indication of what is included in your application; for example, résumé, statement addressing the selection criteria (optional), written references (optional), and the like.
- Statement of why you are interested in the position and what particularly attracts you about the job, the work area.
- One or more paragraphs outlining broadly how you meet the requirements of the position and selection criteria. This may include highlighting the most relevant skills or abilities you can bring to the position, your familiarity with the workplace/job requirements, any relevant personal qualities or attributes, and the benefits of employing you.
- Optional - examples of how you meet one or more of the selection criteria. See Addressing the selection criteria for more information.
- How and when you can be contacted if required to attend an interview.
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Typed or handwritten
There are different views about whether the covering letter should be typed or handwritten.
In general a typed letter looks better presented, neater and easier to read, so if you have access to a computer, it is probably a good idea to provide a typed covering letter.
If you do decide to produce a handwritten letter, make sure it is legible, neat and easy to read.
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All of your written application needs to sound positive and enthusiastic. This is particularly important with your covering letter, since this is the first document a selection panel will read. How you phrase things and the words you use can convey either a positive or a negative message to the selection panel.
Try to avoid saying what you can't do; avoid phrases such as:
- 'I don't have any experience in ....'
- 'My knowledge of .... is limited'
or words such as:
Use of such words and phrases may convey a negative message to the selection panel that you either do not have the necessary skills and experience, or that you lack self-confidence.
Instead, focus on positive statements, such as:
- 'I have experience in ....'
- 'My knowledge of .... includes ....'
and words such as:
Such positive words and phrases convey to the selection panel that you do have the skills and experience, and that you have confidence in your own abilities.
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If possible, keep your covering letter to a single page. Too much information, especially if it is not relevant to the job, may detract from the letter. Your statement addressing the selection criteria is the place to give more detailed information about yourself and your ability to do the job.
The examples of covering letters include:
- A pro-forma letter highlighting the types of information that could be included in a letter
- how a covering letter for a particular University vacancy might look.
- a cover letter example for an Administrative Assistant role.
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While including a separate response to all the selection criteria is no longer a requirement, you should ensure that all your key attributes for the advertised position are documented in your application.
- Selection criteria and why are they used
- Examples of selection criteria
- Meeting the requirements
- Addressing the criteria
- Additional information
Selection criteria and why are they used
Selection criteria represent the key qualifications, training, abilities, knowledge, personal attributes, skills and experience a person must have in order to do a job effectively. You must meet the selection criteria in order to be considered for a position.
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Examples of selection criteria
Aside from qualifications and experience that may be specific to a particular job, there are several selection criteria that are common to many University positions. These include:
- analysis and research
- accuracy and attention to detail
- decision making
- interpersonal/verbal communication
- knowledge/experience of specific software or equipment
- knowledge/experience of University organisation, policies or procedures
- organisational/planning/prioritising/time management/ability to meet deadlines
- proficiency in a range of computing skills
- presentation/public speaking
- written communication skills
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Meeting the requirements
For any position advertised in the University, the selection panel is required to assess each applicant in terms of their ability to meet the requirements of the position, including the selection criteria.
There is no longer a requirement for applicants to provide a separate written statement addressing all of the selection criteria in detail. This is now optional.
However, you are expected to demonstrate in your written application (resume and covering letter) that your capabilities fulfill the requirements of the position, including the selection criteria.
If you choose to address selection criteria in your written application, guidelines on how to do so are outlined below.
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Addressing the criteria
Before you write your statement addressing the selection criteria, it is recommended that you go through the following steps:
- Read each criterion carefully and highlight the key words, such as
High level written communication skills, with the ability to write memos and reports for senior staff
- For each criterion, brainstorm for ideas and write down all your relevant knowledge, skills, abilities, training and experience.
- Think of specific examples where you have used your skills, abilities, etc., and note these down. Consider them in terms of:
- Activity - what happened, what the situation was
- Behaviour - what you/others did
- Consequence - what the outcome was.
- Focus on your key achievements and note these down, for example:
- reduced costs/time taken to perform tasks
- procedures/processes streamlined
- suggestions you made that were implemented
- satisfied clients/colleagues
Format and layout
There are a number of things you can do to make your selection criteria statement effective and easy for the selection panel to read.
- You can provide a mini statement as part of your Covering Letter giving examples of how you meet the selection criteria
- Alternatively, you could make it a separate attachment from your résumé and covering letter. In this case, give the document a heading and include the following details:
- title, such as 'Statement Addressing Selection Criteria'
- name of the position
- position reference number (for example, 42/08)
- Address each criterion separately:
- give each a title, using exactly the same wording as appears in the position description, such as 'Highly developed written and verbal communication skills'
- list each criterion in the same order as it appears in the position description
- under each heading write one or two paragraphs explaining how you meet that particular criterion (how to do this is explained below).
- choose the best/most relevant items from the above examples to include in your selection criteria statement.
Your statement addressing the selection criteria needs to demonstrate how your previous experience, skills, education and training have equipped you to meet the requirements of the position for which you're applying.
Below are some guidelines on what to include in the statement you write for each criterion.
- Write a brief introductory statement outlining how/why you meet the criterion.
- Highlight your relevant skills and experience by describing your major responsibilities in current or previous employment (this may include relevant non-paid work). Where possible, mention the same kinds of tasks and responsibilities as are listed in the advertised position description. For example:
- 'I have been executive officer to a number of senior level University committees. My responsibilities have included organising meetings, researching background information, taking minutes, and preparing and distributing agendas, reports and minutes.'
- 'In all my previous positions I have performed general office duties such as handling telephone enquiries, greeting visitors, arranging meetings, filing, photocopying, sorting and distributing mail.'
- Indicate the extent of your experience in relation to a particular criterion, for example the number of years' experience, number of staff supervised, and the like. For example:
- 'I have over four years' experience using Microsoft Word on a daily basis to produce letters, memos, reports, tables and course materials. I regularly use advanced features of the program, such as ....'
- 'For the past eight years I have worked in libraries, including ... '
- 'I am responsible for supervising the day-to-day work of five staff, including ....'
This is very useful if you want to emphasize that you have lots of experience. If your experience is limited, you may prefer to be vague about how much you have!
- Briefly give details of one or two specific things you've done that are good the best/most relevant examples of your ability to meet the criterion. For example:
- 'I was responsible for organising a large seminar attended by 100 staff. This involved ....'
- 'My ability to work well in a team was demonstrated when ....'
- Where possible, indicate how successful you were at achieving your tasks. You could do this by referring to feedback you've received from others, suggestions you have made that have been adopted, changes you have implemented that are still being used. For example:
- 'A report I wrote about .... was well received by the .... Committee, and circulated as a discussion paper.'
- 'The accounting spreadsheet system I introduced two years ago is working effectively and staff find it easy to use.'
- Mention any relevant qualifications and training you have, particularly if your experience is limited. These might include:
- details of any relevant training courses you've attended, such as 'Effective Communication at Work', or 'Introduction to Microsoft Excel'
- subjects studied as part of award courses, such as bookkeeping, office practice.
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Either at the end of your selection criteria statement, or in your Covering Letter, you may like to add any extra information that you believe is relevant to the job. Examples of things you could mention include:
- skills and abilities which you think are important and which haven't been mentioned in the selection criteria, e.g. 'flexibility', 'ability to maintain confidentiality'
- knowledge or experience you have which you believe is important to the job, for example, knowledge of particular University systems, policies or procedures.
Make sure that any information you include is directly relevant to the position.
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An example of a separate document addressing all of the selection criteria:
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