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Nine stupid mistakes that commonly kill cover letters in Australia

If you’re an international candidate looking for a finance job in Australia, you face an uphill battle against both locals and expat Aussies returning home.

The cover letter you email to recruiters or hiring managers in Australia is usually the first thing they read. Don’t let your chances of snagging a role Down Under fail because of the following flaws.

1) Churning out cover letters

Candidates who are desperate to move to Australia tend to rush out cover letters for as many vacancies as possible. This quickness-over-quality approach can make letters too generic and cause simple mistakes. “For example, of most concern is a cover letter that has a person’s name or a company name from a previous application,” said Jacob Smith, director of Sydney recruiters JS Careers.

2) Raving about irrelevant experience

Cover letters should be short, so only shout about overseas experience that is actually sought after in Australia. “Candidates should research the local market and demonstrate an appreciation of it,” said Andrew Hanson, director of financial services at recruitment agency Robert Walters in Sydney. “Too often people just assume that all their foreign experience is relevant.”

3) Packing in personal information

In some countries it’s common to include your date of birth, ethnicity, marital status and other personal information in CVs and cover letters. But anti-discrimination laws mean you shouldn’t mention such details when applying for Australian jobs, said Allira Salem, national account manager, banking and professional services, at recruiters Kelly Services in Sydney. “It’s irrelevant to your capability to perform a role; you want employers to focus on your work history,” she said.

4) Naming the wrong name

Recruiters and hiring managers hate impersonal introductions, so ditch your “Dear Sirs”. “One of the other common mistakes is when overseas job seekers add ‘Mr’ only to my first name, not my family name, addressing me as Mr Adrian rather than Mr Oldham,” said Adrian Oldham, regional director, financial services at Michael Page in Sydney. “That may be the appropriate style in, for example, some Asian markets, but it’s important to change your approach for the country you’re applying to.”

5) Vanquishing your visa

If you already have a Skilled Independent Visa, allowing you to work in Australia without an employer sponsoring you, mention it prominently in your cover letter, not just in your CV. “A surprising number of people fail to do this even though it’s the number-one thing employers want,” said Oldham. “Candidates assume that all their rival applicants have a work visa – they don’t,” he added.

6) Rambling about your relocation

It’s good to mention your reasons for moving to Australia, but make it a short summary. “Many people use up precious space in their cover letter with this; they should be concentrating instead on their suitability for the job advertised,” said Oldham.

7) Not using Aussie English

Many foreign applicants write cover letters in US English, which instantly draws attention to their lack of local experience. It’s a good idea, particularly if you’re not a native English speaker, to ask a friend in Australia to check your letters before you send them, said Tom Algeo, director of Sydney career consultancy Value Oriented People. “But don’t try to be ‘too local’ as it will be obvious; an Australian recruiter is not your ‘mate’,” he added.

8) Only providing a phone number

Some Australian employers may not call you back if you’re based overseas, said Toni Maselli, general manager, banking and finance, at recruitment agency Randstad in Melbourne. “Make it easy for them to get in contact; give them your email, skype, or LinkedIn details.”

9) Wanting to work in Sidney

“One overseas cover letter stands out to me: a candidate who spelt Sydney as ‘Sidney’ throughout,” said Tim Carroll, director of search firm 325 Consulting in Sydney. “He had a good CV, but I just couldn’t bring myself to interview him after that.”

Related links:

Want a fund management job? Head to Australia

Eight interview questions that could stop you getting a job in Australia

Desperate European bankers taking economy flights to Sydney

Comments (5)

Comments
  1. Not only do you need to keep the lingo local, you also need local experience. Personally I wouldn’t bother with Sydney unless you are from a back office ops background or a recruitment consultant. Those are the only candidates who are likely to be “desperate” to move to Australia. Recruiters in Australia need to realise that Wall St, City, and asian centre experience is much more central and relevant to global banking than anything one could learn sitting in Sydney. It would therefore be good if they stopped making out that the world spins around developments in Sydney!

  2. Well said Joe. Banking in Australia is so outdated than any asian banks. Banks in Asia has better technology and knowledge in banking industry.
    Asian cant match an Australian in spoken english because its their mother tongue. But when it comes to written english, asian are far better than any so called Aussies.

  3. Sorry @LEENA but I have to disagree. Australasia – eg Australian and New Zealand banks actually have better technology and more efficient banking systems than most banks in Asia. Speaking from the experience of having many years in both. The clearing and payment processing, things like setting up GIROs etc, is much easier and quicker there. Inter-bank payments usually get credited the same day, in Asia this can often take a few days.
    I also must disagree with the written English comment. Having seen many formal letters/CV’s etc written by Asian candidates, some of them are pure cringeworthy, terrible grammar and in some cases not even bothering to spellcheck. This would not be an unusual occurance. For for Aussies or indeed most other ‘Westerners’, that would be a very rare exception.

  4. I am an Australian qualified professional returnee. On your third point ‘Packing in personal information’, anti-discrimination laws may say one thing, but from recent personal experience it is commonplace for grubby Australian law firms to directly ask about age, marital and family status. Australia remains a backwater.

  5. It works both ways. Once I saw a vacancy advertisement stating that familiarity was required in ‘Standards & Pause’!

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