Cover Letter Checklist: What to Review Before You Submit

Updated 21 July 2022

You’ve found a job you’d like to apply for and have written a resume that clearly summarises your experience and qualifications. The final step is to include a cover letter that will get the attention of the hiring manager or decision maker.

Here are seven tips to take your cover letter to make sure your cover letter really stands out:

1. Verify everyone’s contact information

Triple-check both your contact information and the information you have for your potential employer. Whether it’s in your address details at the top, your signature, or both, make sure your phone number and email address are correct, that all letters and numbers are in the correct order. If you have one, include a link to your professional website or portfolio (and check that you can click on the link, and that it takes you to the right webpage).

It is preferable to include a mobile telephone number rather than a landline telephone number as this enables the employer to contact you via SMS message or by telephone. Write the number in the following format +61 4XX XXX XXX so that if they are reviewing your letter on a connected device, they can simply click the number to call you.

Once you’ve confirmed all of your information, review the company’s contact information, verify the spelling of their name (this may mean including “Ptd Ltd”), and double-check the company’s address.

2. Confirm that you’re using the right greeting

Start by checking the tone of your writing. Is it professional or more casual? Your choice of greeting will depend upon several factors, such as whether or not you know the hiring manager personally, if you are being referred by an employee, the type of job for which you are applying, and the overall company culture. If you aren’t sure, opt for the most common “Dear Hiring Manager,”.

If you’ve located the name of the hiring manager and are addressing them by name in the greeting of your cover letter, double-check the spelling of their name before you send the letter.

3. Make sure you’re sending the right letter

Chances are you’re applying for multiple jobs at the same time, so you probably have several cover letter drafts. As you are reviewing your cover letter, make sure that it’s referencing the correct position and the correct company throughout.

Because variations of your cover letter can add up quickly, it’s a good idea to clearly label and organise each version. This will make it easier to reference previous versions when you want to reuse portions of various letters in new versions, improve future iterations or restructure your template altogether. You may consider the following naming convention for your files: Write the date starting with year, then month, then day (for chronological sorting); the name of the company, job position applied for, type of document. For example: YYYY/MM/DD.

4. Pick your keywords wisely

Once you’ve completed the steps above, then move to the body of your letter. Make sure that you have cross-referenced keywords in the job description with your cover letter and that you are using the same or related language. You undoubtedly have a number of different talents, so find the best ways to state your skills and use the same keywords that the company uses in the job description. Many companies use software called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS reviews and qualifies applicants based on job description keywords, then ranks each applicant within the company’s database. If you aren’t using the same keywords that are in the job description, you might not hear back about your application.

5. Choose the right file format

It’s best to use file formats an ATS can easily parse. The safest choice is a .doc file. This is not often the default option when you’re saving a document. To choose the .doc format for your cover letter, click on File, Save As, and find the “Format” field. From a drop-down menu, you can select .doc.

6. Check length requirements

Check the application form to see if there is a specific word limit for your cover letter submission. If not, a general rule is that cover letters should be no more than a single page long, consisting of three to four paragraphs that clearly explain why you are a good match for the role—without repeating your resume verbatim. State why you are interested in the specific role, include targeted professional information, satisfy any directions listed in the job description, and demonstrate an understanding of the organisation.

7. Proofread and proofread again

Once you’ve made it through all the steps listed above, it’s crucial that you proofread your cover letter so you don’t miss spelling errors, typing mistakes or other details that can undermine your efforts. Reviewing every detail and taking the time to get it right demonstrates a commitment to excellence that any hiring manager will appreciate.

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