If you don't write a different letter for every job you
apply for you need to go back to the drawing board. This mistake has
probably lost you many hours even weeks writing ineffective job
(there are some minor ways to do this in resume
that we write for you if necessary and without changing the substance, and
we will discuss this with you).
It doesn't matter if you are going for a driving job or an executive
position, the concept and format is the same. Obviously the more complex the
position more work is required. An effective application letter is
one that makes it easy for the employer to see how your skills, knowledge
experience and attributes, etc., match
their criteria. A good resume is also crucial and must back up the
If you are not sure on what jobs to target you may need to do more
research. Instead of giving you point form tips on what this type of
application letter should
contain, this section provides more heavyweight information on :-
have a logical format
beginning, the middle and the end.
The beginning of the application
Effective application letters use a
headline as an opening sentence
You may have noticed that marketing or sales letters use
a powerful headline to capture the attention of the reader.
Your opening statement is your headline and if it is weak, the impact of
your letter will be lost. Marketers can afford to test different headlines
in their advertisements or opening statements for sales letters. You
only have one go at acing it. You have to put the job in the first, but the
employer expects to see this and will not actually read it. So the brain is
wired to receive the opening paragraph as long as the job title is centred.
1. Example of a professional position : skills
IT Professional and Systems Analyst
Now you can use your opening sentence
For this exercise, imagine that these examples
reflect the employer's stated criteria or needs.
A few are for middle of the road jobs, to demonstrate that anyone can use
them. They become more powerful at a higher management level.
They have to, because the employer expects it. So applicants applying for
higher level positions have to really deliver and sell themselves in a
dynamic way and appropriate to the level of the position. The principles are the
same for everyone.
This is a random
example taken from the profile of our sample
resumes that can be used in an
application. You can see how easy it is to write opening statements in your
application letter for a professional
occupation if your resume has been constructed correctly.
Please note: Examples taken from
are used for the purpose of this exercise only. Your letter should not repeat word by word what is in your resume.
This first examples is for a reasonably high level position. The
second one is for an accounts clerk. Once you have the idea you can
find more simplistic applications for less demanding jobs can be
If you have a good resume it may contain exactly what the employer
requires and there may be a temptation to repeat the resume in your
job application - after all, you spent hours on compiling it so it is targeted
at jobs you are qualified for. So if the employer is looking for skills and experience
Now say the employer has asked for an It specialist to
set up a new mechandising account management system.
This is a skill area that is shown in
Try and find different words.
At XYZ company I customised
IT programmes to fit company requirements while at the same time making
improvements for greater productivity.
Now don't be harsh I am not an IT specialist but you get the idea, don't
Here is another.
If you can't find anything that is better than
this statement you can say: "See my resume, demonstrating
that I have a "solid track record in designing...."
Use this phrase verbatim only if the resume is powerful and a complete match,
and you can't improve on it without making a statement less
straight to the point. Personalise it by
putting "I" or in this case "I have a solid track record....." before
the sentence, or
equally, if appropriate, this second part of the sentence can be used.
For this resume statement below. you can say,
This would have been better with a measurable outcome stating what
the revenue growth was. However, the size of the company is
important. If it was a multi national company say so. If it is the
same industry as the one you are applying for then say so: This is
for a higher level manager or executive.
Here is another opening
one of the accountabilities in the same resume.
Despite the unfamiliar
wording it could easily be customised in a job application letter for another IT position. This is how it
appears in the resume.
I repeat, when taking a statement from a
resume that answers the employer's criteria to put in an application letter be sure and
personalise it and change it a bit to ensure it is not stilted.
Possible scenario for
this application letter based on the employer's needs.
Let us imagine that this company is going through organisational change
and it wants someone to help them to set up a branch office in a different state
or country. They need someone to develop systems that are compatible with
office mainframe computer, and at the same time adhere to local standards
that differ from those required by head office. Now this is clearly
shown in your resume. In this scenario an
opening statement can be used.
I created templates for
system documentation and user manuals that were adopted as an OMAM
standard within South Africa. This was part of a similar project to the
one you are undertaking.
I was a
valuable team member
working with others to integrate systems and develop new standards to
conform with local standards. I undertook the following tasks,
Now these tasks
and will match
other criteria in the advertisement.
Use point form. Once again only match what is relevant and do not use
the same wording as your resume.
lead logically into the middle of the letter as shown below.
You can" value add" in the last
paragraph if necessary. This is
Note: In the first sentence a benefit statement has now been given for the
The applicant has
addressed this early, by saying she has already been through the process. So
this is the benefit.
A winning application letter will use effective content for maximum
impact by using features and benefits as shown in
Do not just paraphrase the criteria.
Examples are difficult because
each job advertisement will have its own, sometimes complex, criteria and
you have to keep your application letter short. The
applicant may be short on experience and skills, and the employer will place
importance on criteria such as organisational skills, being a good
communicator and/or a highly motivated individual.
These criteria are harder
to demonstrate. You cannot just say in your
application letter that you possess these skills. This is an extremely bad mistake
many job seekers make. It is meaningless. As I always say, a baby can communicate.
The employer wants to know your level of communication and wants
an example of how you have used your communication skills or maybe your
Use an example that will fit into the category of the advertised job so that
it is relevant. Always try and match the advertised job in your examples.
This one always gets me, If you cant demonstrate to a
high degree that you have bright personality, fall back on "my referees will
testify that I have a bright personality". If you haven't got a bright and
perky personality you should decide if it is the right job for you.
Example of a lower level position. How to get evaluate the criteria which is
sometimes obscure or not specific. You can address it using different words
to say the same thing.
Accounts Clerk to Assist the Company Accountant
Here is part of the job
advertisement. "This is a busy position and you will need to have good
organisational skills and work with minimum supervision."
So in a job application for and accounts clerk, your opening
statement could take in all of the above
criteria in one carefully composed sentence.
I have a
successful track record of prioritising and
accounting work flows in
a fast paced environment,
assisting the company
accountant to perform all accounting functions.
The assumption is that the bolded
words have been part of the criteria. "prioritising"
could be "able to
work with minimum supervision" or "good organisation skills",
can "controlling". "Fast paced environment"
will answer the criteria,
"a busy position".
Assisting the company
accountant of course reiterates the job title and ties this
sentence up nicely.
will then go on to complete the middle of
letter and demonstrate the rest of the skills/experiences mentioned in the
advertisement. Use point form. If nothing specific is ask for in the
advertisement (this is often the case) then mention what you know to be the
most important part of the job. Try to use one or two outcome statements if
possible. This will be discussed further on as "value adding".
with opening statements, most companies want to know what you can
do for them. These are generally the outcomes shown on your
resume if it is written correctly as mentioned previously. If you are telling an
employer that you "control
accounting work flows in a fast paced environment,
you should say that you have accurate data entry skills at x number
(or figures) per minute and how it can benefit the company. This can
be addressed in the middle or end of the letter in line with
reading principles See How to
write a business letter
In one resume I prepared, the client had
exceptional data entry skills and the employer actually eliminated
the need for casual staff at the end of the month, which was the
company's usual practice for many years. This was an outcome that
went into the resume. However, this was a specific outcome for this
client, so don't use it in your own application letter if it is not
another resume example, a good data entry person left the company
and she later found out they had to fill the position with two
people. (this is only too common). So accuracy and data entry
speed can actually be beneficial to a company and should not be
Your proficiency in the way you approach your
workload, i.e. setting priorities, streamlining systems and a skill
such as your high typing speed can create a $ benefit for
the employer. You can 'value add' to your application letter by
saying this in your resume so see further on.
Impressions are about expectations.
An employer who is looking for an accounts clerk will not expect to see to a powerful application letter. On the other hand, an employer
advertising for a manager has higher expectations. They will expect a dynamic letter because this fits
profile of the person they want.
The position or level of
skills required is important, only insofar as the employer who receives a
strong application letter with a powerful opening statement, that is backed up with content
to reflect the employers needs, and maybe exceed them in some way, will
create a very favourable impression with the employer. Why? Because they did not expect it. The
applicant has talked
directly to the employer by addressing his/her needs and shows the promise
of being able to deliver extra benefits appropriate to the position
(value adding). This includes the amount of bad debts you were able to
retrieve and the number of accounts you maintain, for example that is above
wheat the employer would hope for.
Beware of over-selling yourself
Value adding is a skill you have that you know is part of the job but the
employer has not written into the job description. It may be a more advanced
You could have acquired this skill from a
professional development course. It is something that is "over and above
the employer has asked for". You need to make it clear as to why you are
mentioning it. Although this is mentioned before elsewhere it is appropriate
to mention now. You could say "in addition to the skills that you have asked
for, I can bring to the company a sound knowledge of xyz". It is another
benefit and will set you apart from other applicants.
Example of overselling yourself
Value adding for an accounts clerk as demonstrated is highly recommended.
some applicants oversell themselves for the position.
This can lose you the job so be sure you understand the job
value add when it doesn't encroach on someone else's position in the
You need to research the company so you understand where you will fit into
the organisation. You do not want to sell yourself out of a job. Do not
write and application for your bosses job.
For more advanced winning application
letter opening sentences see
world's greatest job application letters
Find powerful opening sentences
content for your letters. For only about $20 USA dollars this is a must have
The middle of the
After a strong opening statement the applicant will now
have to deliver the goods: Using
Features and benefits is a good
way to do this
Still using the Accounts Clerk
job, the applicant should now state what he/she actually did to assist the
accountant as per criteria. You must be organised for addressing each of the
this example of the whole process. This
job application sample letter shows
you how to organise your material so that you do address the criteria and
don't miss anything. For example,
assisted the accountant by:-
Taking his suit to the
dry cleaners (feature) so he wouldn't come into work looking like he has
slept in his clothes which made him look more competent than he is.
Making him coffee (feature) so that he
could get up the energy to get off his "but" and do some work. (benefit)
Ok so don't tell the truth, but
the applicant should say what he/she did to assist him or her if you
like, run the accounting department as stated in
Using another example: an accounts payable person
may do the wages, so just stating "experience in payroll", for example,
is not enough information It
needs substantiating and show the level of skill.
If any of the experience used in the
was gained in a job
further back in your job history, you need to say:-
It is important that the employer can see in your resume the claims made in
the job application. Your resume will probably give these specific
duties if they are essential to the job and maybe it wont if they are low
level skills or not essential. However the resume must show that the applicant has
performed a similar role.
The job application should not leave any criteria unanswered or leave the
employer to try and sieve through the information. Why should they bother.
There will be other applicants who have written a better application letter.
The end of the application letter
To reiterate, analyse the job and
company and at the end of the letter give them something more
than their stated criteria and make sure they know that it is "over
and above" their stated criteria. This is value adding.
Another example of a value added sentence.
"In addition to your stated criteria, I have assisted the
accountant by.... Here you state the accountabilities in your job that
assisted the accountant that are not in the criteria.
Stronger value added statement would be
as previously mentioned. "In
addition to your stated criteria, I can bring to the job a sound knowledge of
XYZ", (It must be relevant).
Now is the time to
close your letter.
Here you can expresses your interest in the job and ask for an
You should not go overboard or too pushy. However, you need
to let the employer
know you are very interested in the job. Say where, when and what time
are available for an interview. If this information is not provided, and
you are still in a job, an employer will be uneasy about contacting
you at work.
You need some excellent closing sentences in your
job search arsenal. Try
cover letters. I love this as you can change to suit your
circumstances. For a taste of what this author offers-
Get your complimentary
copy of Top 10 Secrets of the
"Worlds Greatest Cover Letter"
your application letter
language and tone will not be the same for an unskilled job and a
highly skilled position paying top dollars.
used by a highly skilled professional will be different to the
language used by a person with a much lower level of skill. If a professional's salary
is over, $75,000, for example, the language of the letter should
reflect a high level of writing (If required in the job, we are not
talking about high paying manual or semi skilled work or even some
trades). It should create an image of the
applicant that fits the position and salary for that
As stated before, many job seekers on a lower
skill level, make the mistake of copying example letters shown
by the thousands on the internet, or get a professional to write it. It
can create an image that is actually detrimental to your
application. Employers may get the impression
that you are too ambitious for them, or that you may not fit in.
Worse still, they can spot a professional letter at a glance and
will make an assumption based on experience, that you didn't write
it. You will lose credibility.
If you do get a professional
to write your application letter, remind them that the literacy standard should
not be the same standard of a highly paid executive. Keep the
language simple. Otherwise when you meet the employer it
will become obvious that you did not write the letter. Although we
offer these services, I strongly encourage the client to learn how
to write their own application letters.
confident but not boastful or arrogant. This applies equally to all
job seekers. If you use sales
techniques you are creating features and
benefits and these are powerful in
their own right.
If your skills do not match your tone in your
application letter you can come across as boastful or
arrogant . So you need to be careful you do not overdo the
Many people misunderstand sales language. It is not
about clever boastful words, it is about selling features and
There is no need for superlatives. If you
answer the client's needs using features and benefits you should be able to
strike the right tone.
features and benefits and tone of your letter plus lots of ideas
Letter Writing Using Marketing Techniques