Writing a persuasive resume and cover letter is important when you are looking for work, but it's not always easy.
In this guide to writing cover letters for people with disability, you'll find helpful tips about what to include in your cover letter and how to make sure it impresses the hiring manager.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page letter you write to a potential employer to introduce yourself and describe why you're the right person for the job.
You should submit your cover letter with your resume as part of your job application.
Like your resume, a cover letter should address the specific company and role you're applying for. While resumes contain factual information about your skills and experience, a cover letter should show more personality and flair.
Why do you need a cover letter?
Your cover letter is often the first encounter an employer has with you. It's your chance to make a good impression, capture their attention and show them that you have what it takes.
Employers usually receive a lot of cover letters at once. Writing a good cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd and stick in the employer's mind.
An employer is more likely to read your resume and ask you to come in for a job interview when you have a strong cover letter.
What should you put in a cover letter?
Your cover letter should be tailored to the specific job and company you are applying for. Include the most important and compelling information that shows why you'd be great for the role.
Leave out any information that isn't relevant. You should keep your cover letter under one page long.
What to include:
- A quick introduction to yourself – tell the reader who you are and why you're writing to them.
- Key experiences that match what the employer is looking for.
- Examples of when you've demonstrated skills listed in the job description.
- Reasons why you'll fit in with the company.
- Thank the reader for their time and invite them to read your resume or contact you for an interview.
What to leave out:
- Information already found in your resume. For example, 'Hi, my name is ____.'
- Anything which is not factually correct and exaggerations.
- Irrelevant information, such as your age or marital status unless it is relevant for the job.
- Clichés and generic statements.
- Your disability - you are only legally required to disclose your disability unless it impacts your ability to complete the essential tasks of the role.
Should you disclose a disability in a cover letter?
In general, it's recommended not to mention your disability in a cover letter unless it is relevant to the job role.
For example, if you are applying for a disability support worker position, your lived experience with disability may be relevant and desirable.
You are not required to disclose your disability unless it will affect your ability to perform the essential tasks of the job.
Some people decide to tell the employer upfront so that they can be honest about the accommodations they will need in the role.
Others decide to mention their disability in the interview so that they can ask questions about accessibility and company culture.
Deciding if and how to disclose is a big decision. Getting professional or legal advice may help you decide what's best for you.
10 Cover letter tips for people with disability
1. Address your cover letter to a person
Instead of starting your letter with 'To whom it may concern', try to use the name of a specific person at the company. It will make your cover letter more personal and show that you have taken time to research the company.
You can often find the name of the hiring manager on the job posting. If it's not there, try searching the company website or LinkedIn. You can also call the company office and ask who you should address your letter to.
2. Write a new cover letter for every job
You should write a new cover letter for every job you apply for. Tailor your information and tone to the specific company and job role.
This means you need to research the company you want to work for. Find out:
- What they do
- How they present themselves (their brand)
- What their values are
- Who their target audience is (who their products and services are for)
- Who their main competitors are
- What their pain points are (their challenges and areas they could grow)
Use this information to help you tailor your cover letter more effectively. For example, you could explain how your goals align with the company's vision or mention how you have previously worked with their target audience.
3. Use your own voice and story
Avoid using a cover letter template as it can make you sound too generic. Reading example cover letters for the industry you want to work in can help you get ideas, but try not to copy.
Instead, use your own voice and story. It will be more engaging for the hiring manager and help you stand out from all the other cover letters they have to read.
Your life experiences, including your experiences living with injury, illness or disability, put you in a unique position that could give you an edge over other candidates.
Employers want to hear about the unique insights, work ethic and positive attitude you can bring to the job.
4. Start strong
You only have a page to capture the employer's attention, so it's important to make every bit count. Start with a strong and engaging opening line to keep them reading.
Keep these tips in mind for a strong start:
- Be direct and to the point.
- Show that you are enthusiastic about the job.
- Use keywords from the job description.
- Avoid overused sentences like: 'Hello, my name is ____' and 'I am writing to apply for____'
There are many different ways to start. Here are some examples:
Start with a belief statement that echoes the company's values.
- I believe librarians play a crucial role in improving literacy, knowledge and connection in the community.
Start with an achievement.
- Last year, I packed over 500 orders and helped maintain a safe work environment for my team.
Start with enthusiasm.
- When I saw [Name of Company] was hiring, I just knew I had to apply.
Express your passion.
- It has been a dream of mine to work with a local business who is passionate about giving back to the community.
Mention some company news.
- When I saw that your bakery was recently awarded for best bread at [Name of Awards], I knew I had to apply.
5. Use a professional layout
Most cover letters will follow this structure:
- A header with your contact information and the contact information of the company.
- A greeting to the hiring manager.
- A paragraph introducing yourself, the job title and why you are writing.
- A paragraph highlighting the most important skills, achievements and attributes relevant to the job.
- A call-to-action asking the hiring manager to read your resume or get in touch about a job interview.
- A professional sign off.
Don't forget, the way your cover letter looks on the page can help show the hiring manager that you are professional and capable.
Follow these tips for an eye catching cover letter:
- Use a design template.
- Don't crowd your information – leave lots of space between lines and paragraphs.
- Use a size 11-12 font that is easy to read such as Calibri or Arial.
- Use a new paragraph for each main point you make.
- Save your document as a PDF.
- If printing, use professional paper.
6. Highlight your skills
Your cover letter should focus on the skills and experience you have that makes you perfect for the role. Speak positively about yourself and put your best foot forward.
Read the job description carefully and highlight important keywords. Try to address these directly in your cover letter. Think of real life examples of how you demonstrated the skills the employer is looking for.
If the company is looking for a 'team player', don't simply say 'I am a team player'. Instead, think of ways you can show that you work well with a team.
- In my previous role I worked closely with a team of 5 to prepare more than 100 meals per week.
- I volunteered at a local charity store and helped my team keep the store organised and inviting.
Use numbers and statistics where possible to back up your statements, but don't repeat anything you have said in your resume.
7. Keep it short and simple
Your cover letter should be under a page long. Aim for 250 to 400 words. If your cover letter is too long, you risk losing the attention of the reader.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Only include information that is relevant and appropriate for the job.
- Don't repeat information on your resume. Use your cover letter to expand on the most important experiences or achievements.
- Use direct, everyday language rather than flowery words or technical jargon.
- Ask a friend to read your cover letter and suggest things to cut.
8. Use a professional and friendly tone
Your cover letter is your chance to sell yourself. Tell your story in an engaging way and you're more likely to hear back from the hiring manager.
Here are some writing tips to make a good impression:
Match the tone of the company.
Take a look at the company's website. How do they talk about themselves? What tone of voice do they use? Try to mirror their way of talking in your own cover letter to show that you are on board with who they are.
Be professional and friendly.
It's important to sound professional in your cover letter, but it doesn't have to be as dry and factual as your resume. In fact, most employers like to hear some personality in cover letters.
Use an active voice rather than a passive voice.
Using active sentences shows that you are a person who takes action and shows initiative.
X I was assigned the role of night manager.
✓ I took on the responsibilities of night manager.
9. Finish with a call to action
A call to action is a sentence that encourages the hiring manager to take an action such as read your resume or contact you about a job interview.
You should make it easy and simple for the hiring manager to get in touch with you.
Show them that you are excited about the opportunity and looking forward to hearing from them. It's also a good idea to thank them for their time.
Here's an example:
- I'm confident I can bring enthusiasm and a positive attitude to the role . I'd love the opportunity to discuss this more with you. Please contact me at your convenience on [phone number] or [email address]. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
10. Check your spelling and grammar
Always check your cover letter several times for mistakes. Giving an employer a cover letter with mistakes can make you look unprofessional. On the other hand, an error-free cover letter can help you look professional and meticulous.
Use these tips to proofread your cover letter:
- Use a spell checker to pick up any spelling and grammar mistakes
- Read your cover letter aloud
- Get someone you trust to read it
- Break up really long sentences into two or three shorter ones
- Triple check the spelling of the hiring manager's name
- Make sure there are no factual errors – all information should be true
- Don't copy and paste sections from your resume to your cover letter
Need help finding the right job?
Writing a strong cover letter is just one step in the job search process. If you're finding it hard to get work, don't be afraid to reach out for help.
Having the right support with writing your cover letter, preparing for interviews and finding suitable job opportunities can help you feel more confident.
If you're living with injury, illness or disability and looking for work, you could be eligible for Disability Employment Services.
When you register with a provider such as APM, you can get support for things like:
- Career advice
- Finding job opportunities
- Writing your resume and cover letter
- Training to make you more employable
- Funding for things like transport and uniforms
- Workplace modifications
To speak with one of our employment consultants about how we can help, call us on 1800 276 276 or register today.