Writing a great cover letter is a vital skill for a job hunter. While there are some useful rules of thumb when crafting one, it’s not a one-size-fits-all affair. Many Kiwis have a single cover letter that they update each time they’re looking for work and fire off with all their applications, changing just the job title and company name. This is highly unlikely to win you an interview. We have a great article on the basics of how to write a cover letter. In this article, we drill down further into the detail and provide some cover letter examples, which you can tailor to suit your circumstances and the role you’re applying for.
When Should I Write a Cover Letter?
Write one anyway if you’re unsure whether to send a cover letter because the job ad doesn’t ask for one. It’s a competitive market, and showing that you took the time to think about and write a compelling letter can give you a head start.
1. The Traditional Cover Letter
Below is an example cover letter for a standard job application. It shows the basic structure to follow, but of course, you must put your own personal touches in. Your letter needs to be unique to you and the role you’re applying for. Do some research into the company, and include detail unique to the organisation. Read the job ad carefully and get your hands on the full job description if you can. Then, pick out the key strengths the employer is looking for, and think about how you have demonstrated these in your career (or if you are beginning your career, in your education or other pursuits).
Below is a cover letter example for a sales manager role. The job description specified that the successful applicant needs:
Cover Letter Example
<Your contact number>
<Your email address>
<Hiring manager’s name>
Dear <Hiring manager’s name>,
Re: Regional sales manager position
Introductory paragraph: explain why you’re writing, e.g.
I am writing to apply for the position of regional sales manager at <company>, which I saw advertised <insert where you saw the ad>. Strong frontline sales experience is vital to perform at a top level in a sales manager role, and I have many years of experience and demonstrated success at the coalface.
Middle paragraph/s: describe your relevant experience, skills and achievements, e.g.
As you’ll see from my CV, I would bring valuable skills to the position built during my decade as a salesperson in the pharmaceutical industry. Over this period, I have built outstanding communication skills, tenacity and attention to detail. While my colleagues and clients will attest to my verbal communication and persuader skill, I am equally happy on paper, writing submissions and presentations to grow new business. I was swiftly promoted to a senior role at my current company after consistently exceeding targets and growing sales volume.
Final paragraph: why the role/company appeals to you, e.g.
<Company you’re applying to> is a true innovator in the field of pharmaceutical treatments, and I have been following your growth closely. When I heard you were named one of the Top Ten Technology Companies to Watch in 2021, I saw that your commitment to innovative technologies led to worldwide recognition.
Call to action, e.g.
I would love to have the chance to speak with you further about this role and how I could use my skills to benefit your organisation and help it grow further.
Signoff and salutation, e.g.
Thank you for considering my application, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Notice how the central part of the letter focuses tightly on skills, experience and performance highlight relevant to the role. Think about it in this order: what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve achieved. Also, note that while knowledge of Microsoft programs and a full driver’s license were listed as key requirements for the role, these weren’t mentioned in the letter. These are dry pieces of information that you can cover as bullet points in your CV.
The cover letter is more about who you are and why you are the best person for the role. Stick to your biggest strengths and skills: having a full driver’s license won’t make you a standout candidate for the job, but proven business writing skills and sales acumen will.
2. The Prospecting Cover Letter
This is a letter you write when there is a company you want to work for, but you are not applying for a particular vacancy. The purpose is to introduce yourself, express your interest in the company, and put yourself forward for potential opportunities. You should also include a call to action, telling the person you’re writing to that you’d be keen to meet with them and introduce yourself in person. Include information on your experience, skills and performance just as in a standard cover letter, but your first paragraph should explain why you are writing.
Cover Letter Example
I am writing to introduce myself and to express my interest in working for your organisation, which I believe to be one of the most interesting and dynamic companies in <industry>. While I haven’t noticed any open positions on your website, I would love to be considered for any future vacancies that come up. I have extensive experience in <field>, which would stand me in good stead to make a valuable contribution. After the introductory paragraph, highlight your skills and experience. Then close with the call to action, e.g.:
It would be great to meet you to discuss the contribution I could make to the company. Would you mind letting me know if you have the time to catch up for a coffee? I would also appreciate it if your HR department could keep my details on file and know if a suitable position becomes available.
3. The Career Change Cover Letter
While a job for life used to be the norm, it is now common to switch careers multiple times during your working life. When you are moving from one career to another, you must carefully craft your cover letter. You will need to look at the job description for the role very carefully and think about the key points where transferable skills from your previous working life are relevant. For this example, the candidate wants to move from an administrative role to a social media coordinator role.
Cover Letter Example
Dear <hiring manager’s name>
I am writing to apply for the social media coordinator role advertised on Seek. As a social media native who is active across all the main platforms, I know how important it is for companies to build and engage their online communities.
In my current role as an administrator at <organisation>, I have built some great all-around skills, including prioritising multiple tasks to tight deadlines and building relationships with customers and colleagues both face-to-face and online. I get to draft letters and emails and have been praised for my engaging style and attention to detail. Communication is my passion, and connecting with people is what gets me up in the morning.
My social media presence is strong across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I have a knack for creating content that engages my friends and followers. In addition to being highly active on my own accounts, I manage the social media accounts for <organisation name> voluntarily. I have steadily grown their community and engagement, as they can attest.
My goal is to turn my passion for social from a side-hustle into a career, and the social media coordinator role at <company> would be the perfect fit.
I would love to meet with you to discuss further the role and how I could contribute to the organisation and its goals.
I look forward to hearing from you.
4. The Networking Cover Letter
Did you know there’s a hidden job market in New Zealand? Not all jobs are advertised online, in newspapers or by recruitment agencies. If you have good people skills and can do your research, you can use networking to build your career. Linkedin has made networking with industry colleagues easier than ever, but a networking letter can be a useful additional tool. You can send a networking letter to anyone who has a connection to the industry you hope to work in. In the letter, you can ask for referrals and introductions or information on potential opportunities. This kind of letter can expand your professional network, meaning you are more likely to be considered for opportunities when they come up. Here’s an example networking letter was written to an environmental NGO.
Cover Letter Example
Dear <Insert name>
My connection <name> at <company> suggested that you would be a great person to connect with. I am currently seeking an opportunity to take the next step in my fundraising career, and environmental sustainability is a cause I am truly passionate about.
I have enclosed my CV for your review, which outlines my relevant experience, skills and achievements. Some key points that may be of interest to you and <company name> include:
If you are keen to connect with a top-performing, tenacious and diligent fundraiser who is a real team player, I will welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your organisation's needs further. Feel free to give me a call any time.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
5. The Returning-To-The-Workforce Cover Letter
If you are returning to paid work after a gap, it’s wise to address this in a paragraph within your cover letter. Employers and recruiters will notice any substantial gaps in your CV, and it’s best to be upfront and straightforward about the reasons for this. Here are example paragraphs for two common career gap scenarios: redundancy and raising children.
Redundancy Cover Letter Example
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken its toll on <the industry you work in>, and <company> was forced to let a substantial percentage of its workforce go. While this was tough, I have used the time to network, keep my skills fresh, and build new skills through study. I have also done some rewarding unpaid work <mention any voluntary work you have pursued during your career gap>. I am now well-prepared and eager to resume my career and take on a new and exciting opportunity.
Raising Children Cover Letter Example
As you’ll notice from my CV, I have had a few years away from the workforce. These years have been anything but empty; I have spent them raising my three children. Now that my youngest is at school, I am ready to commit myself to my career again. Be assured that I have not let my skills go stale in my time away from paid work. <mention any relevant volunteering, community involvement or study you have undertaken here>. And parenting has undoubtedly honed my multi-tasking abilities and my negotiation skills.
6. The Email Cover Letter
These days, it is common to send a cover letter as an email with your CV attached. This is fine, but always put the same amount of time and effort into selling yourself and explaining why you’d be great for the role as you would in a standard cover letter. It’s not enough to say ‘Here’s my CV, and I look forward to hearing from you. You can cut some of the formalities from the beginning of the letter, though, such as the full addresses and date. You can also be less formal in your salutations, e.g. ‘Kind regards’ instead of ‘Yours sincerely’, which looks overly formal in an email format.
Whatever Kind of Cover Letter You’re Writing, Remember the Golden Rule
A cover letter should never be longer than one side of the paper. Steer clear of flowery language and rambling, as employers have many letters to read and want to get the information they need about you in a concise format.
Before You Send, Check and Check Again!
The final step is to give your letter a thorough proofread. Read it through a few times to ensure it reads well and is error-free. Letting typos slip through could easily get your application thrown onto the reject pile. If you’re not confident in your spelling and grammar, ask a friend or family member to look it over for you. Once you are confident that everything is shipshape, it’s time to send that application and score that interview.