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  Winning Application Letter


How To Write A Winning Application Letter By Addressing The Employer's Needs

A dynamic application letter will win you an interview if you address the employer's stated criteria and as long as your resume is up to the same standard.


As stated in Job Application Letters  all application letters vary in content and use slightly different letter writing techniques, depending on the recruitment method.  An application letter for an advertised job is the most commonly used letter in job search - often just called a cover letter.


The goal of an application letter is to get the employer to read your resume and ask you to attend an interview.  


If you follow the steps set out in this section you will soon acquire the ability to write a dynamic targeted application letter that will impress the employer by addressing the employer's needs and will encourage them to read your resume with positive anticipation.


Instead of giving you point form tips on what this type of application letter should contain, this section provides more heavyweight information on :-

  • High impact or effective, opening statements

  • Features and benefits and how they can be used in an application letter

  • How to write meaningful letter content to put into the application letter that addresses the employer's needs

  • How to provide value added content (additional skills and how they can be used in the advertised job)

The value of this section is the  "real life " examples to give you ideas and to illustrate the technique used, while allowing you to inject your own personality into the letter. See page index


If you are serious about getting your dream job please continue scrolling


*IMPORTANT: Before we move on, this section contains valuable content for all job related letters.  Excellent and very relevant information, to complement and enhance information in this section, is found in  Job Application Letter - Using Sales/Marketing Techniques. This is a valuable very easy to read section, and regardless of your employment status and occupation, you will benefit by all the many tips and guidelines to write a compelling application letter. A must read for everyone. The strategy is unique to Pro-Active Human Resource Management


Q. What is the difference between a cover letter and an application letter


If you change the terminology you change the mindset.


A. The generic term ' cover letter ' is the most common term used to describe all employment letters that accompany your resume.  It is correct if used to describe a letter to accompany your resume for an advertised job. However, it suggests to many job seekers that it is a letter to introduce the reader to what is contained in your resume and is of lesser importance, suggesting that their resume  is the main document.  It is not. A well written letter that addresses the employer's stated criteria is a very important marketing document, and is an application for a job, or an application letter, not just a cover letter.   It can make the difference between getting an interview or not. It's sole purpose is to provide relevant content to show the employer that your skills match their requirements, and will also demonstrate how you can value add to the company, and therefore, you should be interviewed. In a nutshell it is an application letter not just a cover letter.


Your application letter and targeted resume make a very powerful application for a job.  See Resume Writing 


Your resume needs to be just as powerful and cleverly written so that it can back up your application letter.  It needs to be targeted to your area of expertise and desired occupation and should not be altered to fit all jobs. A good resume writer will provide a section in your resume that can be altered without altering the primary content to make it a bit more targeted if you have broad experience.


Note:  a big mistake job seekers make is to write a good application letter that makes claims to possess skills and knowledge required for the job, but the information is not backed up in the resume. This is a poor resume if in fact the job you apply for is one that you have targeted and have the experience to perform.


I saw in my website statistics that someone had Goggled  " is it okay to write "see resume on a job application." The answer is absolutely not. Certainly not without referring to the task/skills, but even then, as we shall see, it is the last resort when you cant find words of greater impact because you actually have a good resume. This why we have provided comprehensive job application letter material. (it is a miracle this search term arrived on any page. Use only keywords in your search term)


This company does not offer any so called generic cover letters, and we reluctantly do a letter for an advertised job if the client is adamant.


Instead we have provided all our letter writing secrets to you for FREE and these form part of our 5 letter writing sections. If you really want to succeed read through all our copyright protected material.  It is all relevant and comprehensive. See our Job search index


 Keep scrolling or you will miss important information.


Addressing the employer's needs not your own.


Employers spend thousands of dollars on an a job advertisement that sets out their employment criteria.  Put yourself in the employer's shoes. Do you think that they will be impressed with an application letter that states how good you are and what you can do without addressing their advertised requirements? Of course not. Yet many good applicants, including highly placed professionals, still won't budge from their "usual cover letter,"  which states how good they are, ignoring individual company needs and is, in fact, it is almost a 'one fits all' letter.


Amazingly, as stated, it has been demonstrated time and again that many people just do not see the real value and purpose of an application letter with content relevant to the specific job. They think the resume will speak for itself.  It doesn't.  Consider these points:-

  • Your application letter creates a first impression.

  • Employer's will not try and pick through your resume to see if you have the criteria they want. It is up to you to tell them.

  • Busy recruiters will put aside a poorly written application letter and may not look at the resume.

  • It provides the reader with an insight into your job capabilities, your motivation and your personality, which may not be apparent in your resume and may be difficult to show in a resume.

  • Your letter reflects your writing skills as well as your communication style. Your application letter is an example of your communication skills. If it is vastly different to your own communication style, or level of competency, you may set yourself up to fail in the interview.


  • Your application letter should be designed to grab the readers attention so they will continue to read it more thoroughly. (powerful opening statements- below)

  • It should demonstrate you have done your research on the company.

  • What you say in your application letter must be backed up in the resume or it is meaningless. That is not to say they should match exactly; your letter should do this. (except career change letters).

  • If the reader can't see that you have skills in the area you stated, your targeting is wrong or your resume is poor. 

  • Your application letter should strike the right tone (see further on) and you shouldn't use jargon or overused meaningless phrases, often found in badly written resumes--> More

Lastly, as discussed further down, your job application must have a logical format - the beginning, the middle and the end.


The reason some people may fail to get an interview is because they use a sample cover / application letter found on the internet without customising the content, or they use the same letter for every job - making only minor alterations in content. This does not fit the criteria of a good application letter.


Of course, sample letters will give you some great ideas. However, you cannot, and should not, use anyone else's application letter.


An example of the process used to address the employer's needs has been provided in sample job applications.  Nevertheless, to be able to write this type of letter you require knowledge of what makes a good job application letter.

See Writing Job Applications Using Marketing Techniques first, as some of the concepts, such as features and benefits, are discussed in this section.


The AIDA sales approach to job application letter writing


Your job application should create:-

  • Attention - opening statement

  • Interest - this is the beginning of the application

  • Desire - middle of the application

  • Action - (in sales terms where do you buy). This is the end of the application

See this detailed explanation of AIDA in "The process of applying for an advertised job using AIDA  sample application letter


The beginning of the application letter : Capture the attention of the reader


A Good application letter will use a opening statements as a headline


The old traditional method of starting a job application letter  was to write "I am applying for the position of doorman as advertised in the Herald  Newspaper on the 1st February 2009".


This is a waste of an opportunity to sell yourself and should never be used. Instead letters have an opening statement as their first sentence.


You may have noticed that marketing or sales letters use a powerful headline to capture the attention of the reader. In job search, the goal for an application letter is to get an interview. 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 ads or opening statements for sales letters. You only have one shot at it.


The headline / opening statement.  The problem with this concept in an application letter is that you have to identify the position you are applying for. The job title then becomes the first part of the letter the reader will read, which can take away the impact of a good opening statement.  So how do you get around this?


This following method has been tested by the author who found that most recruiters or people involved in receiving the application in response to an advertised job, know what to expect when they open a letter for an advertised job. They know that they will see the position title. So psychologically they are prepared to see it in written form and will filter it out. They just briefly recognise it like a picture. Their brain is still open to be influenced by the opening statement. To ensure this happens you should follow these procedures.


  • Put the position title on the envelope, to reinforce what they expect the application to contain - i.e. an application for a Accounts Clerk to assist the company accountant. All employment agencies will provide a job number.

  • Centre the position title so that it is not directly in the in the eye's vision, as explained in a section called reading principles. The eye starts to read from the top left and corner and fans out to the bottom right. See more on reading principles in How to Write a Letter.  

Look at this example;


Accounts Clerk to Assist the Company Accountant


Now you can use your opening statement.


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 resume samples, are used for the purpose of this exercise only. Your letter should not repeat word by word what is in your resume.

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.  So if the employer is looking for skills and experience that you have clearly shown in your resume, try and find different words.  Say, for example your resume states;

  • Solid track record for designing and implementing complex technology and systems solutions on time and within budget.

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....."  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 powerful.

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,  I have combined my business....

  • Combined business acumen and IT expertise to achieve measurable outcomes in cost reduction and efficiency to achieve revenue growth for a medium sized engineering company.

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 statement based on 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.

  • Created templates for system documentation and user manuals that were adopted as an OMAM standard within South Africa.

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:

Let us imagine that this company is going through organisational change and want someone to help them to set up a branch office in a different state or country. They need to develop systems that are compatible with head 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, followed by a benefit statement (in red).

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, undertaking the following tasks:-

Note: a benefit statement has now been given for the whole job.

The applicant has addressed this early, by saying she has already been through the process. So this is the benefit. This leads logically into the middle of the letter and will address criteria in the advertisement.


Do not just paraphrase the criteria.

Examples are difficult because each job advertisement will have its own, sometimes complex, criteria. 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 or maybe your organisational skills.

This following example demonstrates how to address the above criteria in the opening statement. The position is "an accounts clerk to assist the 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 controlling 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", so 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.

The applicant will then go on to complete the middle of  the application 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.

Staying 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 words (or figures) per minute and how it can benefit the company.

Some examples:  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 fact.

In 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 underestimated.

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.

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 the 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. (value adding)

The middle of the application letter

How to use effective content for maximum impact.


After a strong opening statement the applicant will now have to deliver the goods: 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 employer's requirements. (See 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.


I 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. (benefit).

  • 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 the criteria.

Note: Features and benefits is part of Application Letter Writing Using Marketing Techniques

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.

  • Prepared the fortnightly payroll for 100 f/t, p/t and casual staff.

If any of the experience used in the application letter was gained in a job further back in your job history, you need to say:-

  • While at Hardy's Chocolates, I prepared minutes for board meetings.

It is important that the employer can see in your resume the claims made in the job application. The 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 done 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


State how the employer can benefit by employing you.


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.


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. "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 interview.

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 you 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.

Language and Tone of your application letter

The language and tone will not be the same for an unskilled job and a highly skilled position paying top dollars.

The language 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 position.

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.

Your tone should be 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 sales pitch. Many people misunderstand sales language. It is not about clever boastful words, it is about selling features and benefits. 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.

See features and benefits  Job Application Letter Writing Using Marketing Techniques

Salary questions

This is a tricky one. If employers have specifically asked you to give a salary range you must do so. Applicants should read up on the various ways of asking for salary and  put it in the end of the application letter, when they have created interest and desire. Never in the beginning. Let them see what you are worth.

Salary Links




My Career



http://www.quintcareers.com/     Very big section on salary negotiation

Stay here and do some research or go to   Sample Job Application letters

Remember, in order to gain the top salary your resume needs to be very focused and powerful because the employer may have a salary in mind before the interview.

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On this page

Application letters must address the employer's needs

The AIDA sales approach to application letters.

Opening statement headlines in application letters

Examples of opening statements

The beginning of the application letter

The middle of the application letter

The end of the application letter

Language and tone of the letter

Salary Questions

Instant cover letters


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