Most employers with a job vacancy will ask you to send them information about yourself, as a first step in determining if you’re suitable for the vacant role. Usually this involves preparing a cover letter and a resume.
Your cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression. The aim is to introduce yourself and explain why you’re suitable for the role, prompting the employer to then read your resume for more details – and then hopefully invite you for an interview.
- Include the date, your name and contact details clearly at the top of your cover letter.
- Address it ‘Attention to:’ and include either the contact person named in the job ad or (if no name is provided) to the employer/agency advertising the job (e.g. Logan City Council).
- Start your letter with ‘I am applying for the [name of position] job advertised in/on [the website/publication you saw the ad]. If available, include the date the ad was posted.
- Use the letter to provide a short summary of your skills and experience. Again, the aim is to show the employer you’re right for the job.
- Use good spelling and grammar. If possible have someone else read it before you hit send.
Your resume is a summary of your career objectives, skills, education and experience. It’s the document that has the most influence on an employer’s decision to interview you. Whatever you say in your cover letter has to be backed up by your actual job experience and qualifications listed in your resume.
It’s fine to adapt your resume to suit the job you’re going for, emphasising your experience and skills relevant for that particularly job. It’s critical, though, to always be honest about your skills and experience and to not ‘oversell’ yourself. If you get the job, you need to be able to do it!
- Include your name and contact details clearly at the top of your resume.
- Include a statement that summarises your skills and experience, also including your availability (do you have to give notice at your current job?) and your mode of transport (do you have you own car, a current driver’s licence? etc.).
- List your qualifications and certificates, including where they were obtained and the year.
- List your employment experience – starting with your most recent job and working backwards. For each job, include the name of the employer, your job title, the years/months you were there, your achievements and your responsibilities in that role.
- List any volunteering and/or other relevant work experience.
- List any other ‘Personal attributes/life experiences’ that may be relevant to show your capacity to do the job and make a positive contribution to the workplace.
- If possible, include the names and contact details of your referees. Make sure they are current, and are aware they may be contacted (this generally will only happen after interview, if you are the preferred candidate).
Key selection criteria (most common for government jobs)
Key selection criteria are used to give employers more detailed insight into whether or not you have the correct skills and experience to do the job advertised. It’s also your chance to promote yourself and your achievements. (If there is no mention of selection criteria in a job ad, you don’t need to worry about this step.) Key selection criteria are most often used by government employers, but many recruitment agencies and some larger corporate employers also use them.
- Your responses to selection criteria should be in a document separate to your resume.
- Make sure you clearly state your name at the top of the page, as well as the job title (and any reference number).
- Write each selection criteria in bold, and then (under each one), provide an example of how you have demonstrated that skill/attribute in a past/current role. This makes it easy for the employer/recruiter to see exactly which criteria you are responding to.
- When responding, consider the following (known as the STAR Method):
- SITUATION: Describe the situation/work environment you were in.
- TASK: What did you need to do to deal with the situation?
- ACTION: What did you do? What was your specific role?
- RESULT: What was the outcome? What did you learn?
- Some employers will direct you to respond to selection criteria in your cover letter only. Read the job ad carefully to see which format is required.