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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”