Public Service Resumes Logo

Common Misconceptions About Cover Letters

A common question that we are frequently asked by our clients is whether or not they really need to lodge cover letters. If you do a quick search on the internet, you will find countless articles claiming that the days of the cover letter are over. However, in our experience with the Australian Public Service (APS), State Government or Local Council most employers not only still expect candidates to submit a cover letter, but for many roles, a one or two-page cover letter ( addressing Selection Criteria ) is one of the main requirements of an application.

While resumes are perfect for providing an overview of your career, carefully crafted cover letters provide you with the opportunity to tailor your application by highlighting your skills and experience in terms of what the employer is seeking. A well-written cover letter provides applicants with a chance to explain to the employer why they are the right person for the job. First impressions always count, so this is an opportunity that you do not want to miss out on.

Here are the four most common misconceptions that we have come across;

Your cover letters should just outline your resume

A cover letter should never repeat the same information already covered in a resume – it needs to be an informative document in its own right. Use your cover letter as a chance to introduce yourself, outline your skills and abilities, and highlight the very best reasons why you are a great match for the role. If the cover letter is accompanying a key selection criteria or statement of claims, ensure to keep it brief. Therefore, make certain that you choose the most important skills/experience of the role you are applying for and focus on them. Be specific and provide measurable examples with outcomes so you can really demonstrate your capability.

Cover letters offer the ideal opportunity to show your personality. Most employers do not just select candidates based on skills and experience alone. They are also looking for someone who will fit into their team and organisational values. So, do not be afraid to use a bit of creative licence and infuse your personality into the letter.

Your cover letter is all about you

Whilst it goes without saying that your cover letter should include information about your experience and supporting information about how you are a perfect fit for the role, it is not meant to be all about you. It is wise to consider how your work experience fits into the broader needs of the company and how you will be a good fit at the particular company. Prior to writing your cover letter, do some research to show you know what you are talking about. Employers are impressed with candidates who are knowledgeable about organisational goals and strategic direction and if you can incorporate some company statistics, then even better. By showing that you have taken the time to get to know the company you are applying with, you are clearly demonstrating how you can add value to the employer.

Your cover letters is not as important as your resume

There is no doubt that taking the time to create a standout resume should be at the top of the list. However, it would be a missed opportunity to not invest in your cover letter. Well-written cover letters demonstrates to the recruitment manager that you are really interested in the role. By showing the employer that you have done your homework and understand the skills the role requires, you automatically make the application stand out.

Moreover, as previously mentioned, often a cover letter can be the main tool that recruiters use to assess a candidate’s suitability for a role. More and more, we are seeing APS, State Government or Local Council departments and agencies request a one or two-page cover letter asking applicants to provide an outline of how their skills, background and experience align with the role requirements. While this can seem simple at first, it is important to read between the lines and take time and care to look over the position description to determine key focus areas. These can often be found in a list of key selection criteria or attributes. When writing a longer, more targeted cover letter, it is essential that you integrate some strong STAR examples in order to quantify your claims.

It is fine to use generic cover letters

While a tailored cover letter can make your job application shine, a generic cover letter used for multiple applications can have a detrimental effect. When you use a generic cover letter that does not reference the company’s values or the role requirements, you run the risk that employers will conclude that you have not taken the time to prepare your application properly. An even greater risk is that they assume this will be the approach you take to work.

So, there you have it. Four very common misconceptions about cover letters explained. We cannot emphasise enough how important an impressive cover letter can be for your job application. If you would like assistance with the creation of a tailored and professional cover letter for any APS, State Government or Local Council role, then the team at Public Service Resumes can assist you. Our highly experienced team of writers have worked with myriad clients over the years to produce successful cover letters. Call today to find out how you can have the winning edge with your next APS, State Government or Local Council application.