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Preparing an Application Letter

The Purpose of an application letter

We strongly recommend that you always submit an application letter with your resume.

The application letter is the means by which you as a candidate for a position can:

Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Demonstrate that you have read and understood the contents of a prospective employer’s advertisement;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Clearly link your experience set out in your resume to the specific requirements of the position;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Demonstrate that you have an understanding of the company’s industry, customers, suppliers, products and those of its competitors;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Highlight the achievements in your career most relevant to the role;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Demonstrate your written communication skills and your eye for detail and give preliminary insight to your ability to construct an influential and persuasive case;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Provide some insight into your personal style in the way that you construct and express your thoughts.

It is also for these reasons that some employers and recruitment consultants insist on an application letter to accompany a resume submitted for an advertised position. As a candidate, your use of an application letter enables you to use similar versions of your resume to apply for different roles by using the application letter to address the specific requirements of each position.

We acknowledge that some recruiters specifically state that an application letter is not required. They will be using software to screen your resume.

Constructing an application letter

From our decades of recruiting experience, we can say with confidence that the majority of resumes submitted in response to an advertisement are not accompanied by an application letter. As a result, a well constructed and to the point letter accompanying a resume can be an extremely powerful influence in securing an interview for a candidate.

Of those application letters which are submitted with resumes, a high percentage are obviously a form letter sent out with multiple applications from a candidate to a range of widely varying positions. A generic application letter which has no relationship to the required skills and experience for the role advertised detracts from an application and can be a key reason for a candidate failing to be called for an interview. Such letters are a waste of time and in fact, work against you.

Letter layout

The technical requirements of a professionally constructed application letter are:

Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Date the letter;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Address the letter correctly, ensuring that both the title and the name of the intended recipient are spelled correctly;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Make clear reference to the position reference number and the job title;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Write the contents of the letter in compact paragraphs of no more than 3 sentences, focusing each paragraph on the key aspects of the role as set out in the advertisement;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Construct your sentences so that they do not “parrot” sentences and phrases used in the advertisement;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Try to limit the letter to one page. It is acceptable to run to a second page, but highly advisable to limit the application letter to a maximum of two pages.

Letter content

The application letter enables you to draw out specific components of your experience highly relevant to the position, some of which may not stand out in your resume. If those components are critical in determining whether you will be selected for interview, then it is recommended that you modify your resume for that particular job and application.

In the body of the application letter, concentrate on demonstrating through your experience and achievements your understanding of:

Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 The advertiser’s industry;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 The key performance criteria of the job function (for example, profit centre management; sales growth, leading edge customer service performance measures in the industry, staff retention rates, lead conversion rates, operational efficiency);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 The technical requirements of the position;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Your experience versus the depth of experience required and the dimensions of the position described in the advertisement (for example, multi site, state or national responsibility, ten years’ sales management experience, management of a team of 10 people for five years, travel to China 8 times per annum for the last six years);

Make a positive and assumptive close summarising why you should be called for interview and indicating that you look forward to receiving a call.

Application letters – What to Avoid

The following ‘sins’ will work against you and must be avoided at all costs:

Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Spelling the intended recipient’s name or title incorrectly;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Even worse, sending an application letter out with the wrong name on it (usually by picking up the last application letter used and sending it off with no change, or by making bulk applications at the same time to jobs advertised on the internet);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Inserting an incorrect job reference number or position title (It may sound basic common sense, but this does occur more than occasionally);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Spelling errors in the body copy of the letter. Use spell check – that’s what it’s there for. A lack of attention to this type of detail says volumes about a candidate’s potential performance in a role;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Poor grammar;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Repeating whole slabs of the advertisement verbatim, preceded by the words ‘I have’ (polished communication skills) or, in relation to personal attributes, ‘I am’ (results focused; persistent);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Sending a generic application letter which makes no specific reference to the requirements of the job advertised and essentially performs no other function than to say ‘Please find my resume attached’. 

Application letters – What to make sure you do

Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Check your spelling of the intended recipient’s name;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Make sure you have addressed the intended recipient correctly (correct job title);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Write in your words, avoiding repetition of phrases and sentences in the advertisement how your skills, knowledge and experience relate to the specific requirements of the role;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Keep your paragraphs compact;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Don’t run to more than 2 pages – one page is preferable;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Run spell check;
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Print off a copy of your application letter (and your resume) and read them after you have run spell check, to ensure you have picked up words which do exist but are out of context in your letter (for example the use of ‘red’ instead of ‘read’, the use of ‘form’ instead of ‘from’);
Impact_BALL_ONLY_512 Have someone whose spelling and grammatical skills you trust read your final version prior to sending it.

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