Government Job Cover Letter Basics

A cover letter is a professional introduction to yourself, and your application. Therefore, the aim of your letter is to say who you are, what you are applying for, and why your application shows that you are worth an interview.

If you are attaching claims against selection criteria (which you most likely will be if applying for a position in the Public Service), it is not necessary to have a long cover letter that re-states what is already in your selection criteria claims later on. In reality, the person assessing your application will not pay as much attention to the content of your letter as your resume and statements against the selection criteria, and so your cover letter will not have much bearing on the outcome of your application. However, the selection panel will notice that you have included a well-formatted and professional looking cover letter; it forms the first impression of your written application.

What should a cover letter include?

1. An opening paragraph that states what position you are applying for, it’s job / position / requisition number, when it was advertised and what you are including in your application package, e.g. “please find attached my resume, statements against selection criteria, statement of qualifications…”

2. A middle paragraph stating your key claims for the position.

3. A closing paragraph thanking the selection panel for their time in considering your application and stating how you can be contacted.

4. A signature block.

5. An attachments block (that reiterates what is attached to your cover letter in terms of your application).

If your application does not require statements against the selection criteria (this is becoming more common in government jobs) or you are applying for a position in a private company that does not require statements against selection criteria, then more detail regarding your skills and abilities will be required in your letter.

Unfortunately many cover letters submitted in the private sector tell the hiring manager little more than that they are the best person for the job, there is a resume attached, and they are available for an interview. This is a missed opportunity to sell yourself, and your potential! Your cover letter is your only opportunity to provide a narrative in these kinds of applications, and the narrative is where you really get to sell yourself.


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