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Job Application or Covering Letters


Writing an effective and powerful job application letter is an integral part of your job search and crucial to winning a job.


Not all job application letters will go directly to an employer. For example, they may need to go through a third party such as an employment agency, recruitment firm or job network agency.


This section identifies 8 different types of employment  or job application letters you may need in your job search such as prospecting letters for cold calling, letters to generate leads through networking, and letters of interest to an employment agency or job search firm or directly to a company: Each job search method will require you to write a letter with different content.


Before we go further many people refer to application letters as cover letters, a covering letter or letter of interest. So what is a cover letter? and what is a job application letter?


As we go through the process of writing an application letter you will see why I prefer to use this term rather than letter of interest or covering letter. There is nothing wrong with these terms. However people associate cover letter as one fits all letter to accompany your resume when applying for a job. It is just a mindset. To call them application letters make you realise how important they are to the recruitment process and as important as your resume and they must be customised to address the employer's criteria.


You need to be able to create a message with irresistible appeal to your target market. .


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An effective job application letter will position you ahead of the competition and the way you apply for a job will depend upon the job search method you use.  A letter in response to an advertised position is the most common and therefore it is treated as a separate topic and is treated comprehensively in  Application Letter - Advertised Job and Job Application Letter - Using Marketing Techniques.


Both these sections are invaluable in content and a "must read," This last section is highly recommended for the serious jobseeker who is prepared to put in the work to guarantee an interview.


Whatever type of letter you use your goal is the same. This is to:-

  • Grab your reader's attention to entice them to read your resume and to get an interview or an employment lead.

Your resume and your letter combine to make a powerful job application. It goes without saying that a good job application letter is pointless if your resume is not up to the same standard. See Resume Writing. 


Depending on the recruitment method used, the format of an employment letter will be the same.  It is the approach that is differentHowever, make no mistake, they are all sales letters or more commonly, in my view, inadequately called cover letters, (see Write A Winning Job Application Letter.)


To compile an appropriate letter for the job search method you are using you need to keep three questions in mind.

·     Who are you targeting?

·     What is the purpose of the letter?

·     What do you want from the person you are writing to?

 If you are serious about creating self marketing job application letters, you will find valuable insights and techniques to write letter content for maximum impact in Job Applications  - using sales / marketing techniques and also job application letters  for advertised job.  Each section is extremely comprehensive for all job seekers, in fact it is invaluable. Content is unique to Pro-Active Human Resource Management.  Please look at them and bookmark it for later use:

Overview of 8 different types of employment letters


As stated, there are many types of job applications letters used in job search. Here are 9 of the most commonly used letters:-


1. Job application letter directly to an employer in response to an advertised position see Write winning job applications .


The most important aspect of this type of this job application letter that sets it apart from other types of employment letters, is that it must address the employer's stated criteria as set down in the job advertisement. If you don't do this then you are wasting your time and the employer's time. 


This same type of letter, with a slight variation in the wording, also accompanies your resume when you send it to third parties who have advertised a position and will do the recruitment  on behalf of an employer  (below.)  So you need to read the advertisement carefully to ensure you know who is actually doing the recruitment.


2. job application letters to employment agencies / recruitment firms

An application letter to a third party who has advertised a position on behalf of an employer and will act on their behalf in the recruitment process. Here you must talk to the agency/firm and refer to the employer as the agency's "client". It is the agency you must influence to get a job interview with them in order to be referred to their client - the employer.


This job application letter is a bit more difficult and the standard must be very high. The letter must address all the criteria advertised, however the advertisement will probably only tell you the name of the industry where the job is, not the employer.  It is still a job application sales letter and you must use all the techniques shown in Applications Letter - Using Marketing Techniques. and Write A Winning  Application Letter.


Often the company will not be identified at this stage, research is not possible. If you do get referred to the employer you will know the company's name so you must prepare for the interview and do your research. Find out all you can about them and see sections on how to perform at the interview and what you may expect from an interview - Interview Tips and Interview Process and Questions.


3. Letter of interest to an employment agency / recruitment firm


Here you want to register for any positions that may come up in the future. This is discussed further on as a cold call letter.


4. Resume letter 


Used primarily for people returning to the workforce or where a resume is not effective or appropriate.  For example, where there are lots of gaps in their employment.  It sets out your job history briefly without dates and then responds to employer's needs - this is crucial.  You need to use all letter writing sections to write your resume letter. Note: It is a combination of a resume and an application letter. It takes the place of a resume. Say want a manual job in the mining industry and all your work experience is in an office, but you have done the required prerequisite course to get into mining. You may have had some relevant manual work experience way back in your work history. Then resume letter is appropriate. Sample job applications.


5. Career change letter


This is the hardest type of job application letter. It is often used by the more mature jobseeker who has gained a new qualification.  A resume letter may be appropriate in some cases.  If the jobseeker has had more recent employment experience in another job they must be able to recognise their transferable skills. Your resume is very important. A good resume writer will spend a lot of time with you identifying how to tie your transferable skills into your new occupation. If you don't have a good resume it will be more difficult to write an effective job application letter.  An example can be found in Sample Job Applications,


6. Job Application Form


You are more likely to use an application form when you apply to an job advertisement over the phone and are asked to fill in an application form at the time of interview.  Another  example would be for when you apply for casual work or blue collar work. Used in employment agencies that deal with casual labour  (labour hire companies.)


Preparing an application form correctly and neatly, and on the spot, so to speak, requires :-

  • A knowledge of what the employer wants,

  • good handwriting

  • All the information you will need to fill out the form at your fingertips.

If you industry uses application forms as the primary means of applying for the job you will need to develop some skills and knowledge to make the process easier. 


Application forms put you at a disadvantage:-

  • They make you put in  employment history in chronological order that may be irrelevant to the job you are applying for. 

  • You may not have the opportunity to show you main employment skills/history, especially if you have been doing casual work or working while studying.

  • They do not provide an opportunity to target the job to your skills and experience.

So take your resume and give it to them anyway.


Note: If you register with an employment agency you may be asked for your tax file number, especially if it is for temporary employment.


The next group of letters are prospecting or unsolicited letters for cold calling, (or cold canvassing ) found through research or from leads found through networking. The are still referred to as job application letters , but the content is very specific.


Cold calling means contacting  prospective employers who have not advertised a job.

The jobs may be available but they are in "the hidden job market " as I am sure you are aware. That is, they have not been advertised for any number of reasons. Looking back on the three questions to keep in mind;


1. Your target group is the prospective employers you identified in your research who employ people with your skills and qualifications. (Discussed at great length in Cold Calling.)


2. The purpose of the letter is to obtain an interview for any future vacancies.


3. You need to make your purpose clear to the employer or contact..


Networking is an even more effective job search method.  However, job seekers tend to shy away from it. Nevertheless, it has been proven that job seekers want to know about cold calling, so if you feel you can learn skills to write a cold call job application letter, we fully recommend you also read Networking for Success. It really is easy if you follow our proven method.  


Research shows networking is still extremely effective - in fact in a good job market it is most effective, especially in the IT and the mining industry, which has traditionally been an industry where people network. (Some research goes as far as to say that over 85% of jobs are found through the networking).

When you first contact people in your network by phone or letter you are not asking for a job. Rather your aim is to generate job leads.

Once you get these leads you will then write a cold calling letter. 


7. Cold calling job applications


a. To an employment agency or recruitment firm

A letter of enquiry to a recruitment/employment agency to register your interest in being referred to an employer for a job in your area of expertise.


b. Direct to a company

This type of prospecting letter requires you do a lot of research and you must demonstrate that you know what the company does and how you can fit into the organisation. You need to be very specific about the skills you can bring to the job and how you can contribute to growth of the company. Don't actually say how you can improve processes or outcomes, as this suggests that the company is not performing, but state clearly how such outcomes were achieved in past positions.


8. Networking letters


You need two different types of  letters.

1. To a person in your network. Here you want to generate leads. Remember, you are not asking for a job, rather you are asking for advice.


2. You will probably then follow up with a letter of introduction to someone who has been referred to you through your network. This last letter is a cold call letter, but maybe referring to your source if appropriate.  If you can do this (you need permission from the person who gave the lead), it is more effective.


Writing these letters are quite different to any other job applications .

Find out how to network effectively.


Your first challenge is to get  your letter opened.

Opening statements are very important. They start your letter with impact. Opening statements can be found, in Write A Winning job applications .


A sample of each of these types of job applications  can be found in Sample Job Applications


Why you shouldn't use a one- fits- all job application letter


By far the most common mistake job seekers make is to use one fits all job applications that they have copied from the internet or developed themselves as a generic letter and altered slightly. 


You will notice this company does not offer a generic job application letter (cover letter) service. Each letter you write must be personalised to that particular job and the company, which will require research. Even professionals with high level skills often want a generic application letter written when they order their resume.  Most resume companies include these job applications  in their services. We don't, for all reasons stated in this section.


There are excellent sample job applications  found on job search websites. However, most of these job application sample letters are directed at the "professional applicant"  - especially for the high achiever or "would be" high achiever.


Your job application letter is an example of your communication skills, so don't set yourself up to fail. Recruiters can spot a letter that has strung together from phrases from sample job application letters  and the sections you write will be entirely different. We see the same with resumes.


Therefore, some application samples provided on this site are directed at the middle of the road job vacancies and skill level, and show you the process used, so you can develop your own letter writing skills. See Sample job applications .


It is highly recommended that you read Writing Applications Using Marketing Techniques, which shows you how to use effective content in your application letter. This section is invaluable and contains examples of  opening and closing statement examples and shows you how to ensure your job applications  use features and benefits. So no need to look for  "you beaut" sales pitches. The letter is strong on its own. 


As stated, what is common to all job applications is the need to sell yourself.


It is easier to sell yourself if you have a professional background and harder if you are in ordinary white and blue collar occupations. However, no matter what level of job you are applying for you can still write a job application letter using marketing techniques that catch the reader's attention, as long as you address the employer's needs, and therefore their expectations.  (Go to Write A Winning Job Application Letter to find out how to address the employer's needs). 


A good job application letter or employment letter, is useless if you do not have a resume that clearly backs up your claims in the letter. (exception career change letters.)  See Resume Writing.


If you want more guidance you should consider using letter writing software.  Powerful opening statements and marketing phrases can be found at Amazing Cover Letters  You just need to address the employers needs, and this excellent software allows you, and encourages you, to do this. An "all in one package" that looks at occupations with a lot of competition and those with less, that can be changed and personalised. Just ensure you actually find everything in the package as it has a lot of sections.


There a 5 sections on letter writing on this site.  It is recommended that you start with the basics as suggested earlier.  How to Write a Letter  shows you the correct letter writing format and also has valuable information about reading principles, which is very important and not, to my knowledge, found elsewhere unless taken from this site.  A letter that is set out badly will make an unfavourable impression. There is much more to professional letter writing that you need to know. No matter how good you think you are at writing job applications or letters, just take a peak at this section.  Even senior professional managers make critical mistakes that probably cost them the job.


What if the advertisement asks me to state a salary? 


If an employer asks you to state this in your application you must do so. Do not say "salary negotiable" never give salary unless asked.


Salary Links


Amazing Cover Letters

Some good basic advice with regards to the topic of money and how you can increase your chances of getting paid the most a company is willing to offer. Author Jimmy Sweeney


 Quintessential Careers   (Very big section on salary negotiation)




On this page

Overview-8 different types of job application letters 

Types of job application letters  used in job search

Why you shouldn't use a one fits all application letter

There a 5 sections on letter writing on this site.

Salary Questions and links


• Resume / Curriculum Vitae (CV)Writing Service
• Testimonials
• About Your Consultant
Examples of Resumes
• Your LinkedIn Profile
• Career Support Services
• Career Development Resources
• Career Development Articles
• Career Information Sites


• Job Search Centre Index
• Employment and Career Opportunities in Australia
• Where To Find A Job
• Recruitment Methods
• How To Write Selection Criteria
• Find a Job Through Networking
• Develop and Implement a Career Network Plan
• Cold Calling Tips
• Job Interview : Tips
• Interview Process : Questions and Answers
• Job Search Resource
• Job Search Articles
• Job Application Letters
• Job Application Letter - Using Marketing Techniques
• How to Write a Business Letter
• Application Letter- Advertised Job
• Sample Job Applications
• References/Referee reports
• Small Business Services
• Tender Preparation
• Small Business Profile or Capability Statement
• Small Business Resources
• Business Information Sites


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