cover letter

If you are applying for a job you may have been asked to provide some sort of cover letter as part of the process. When I say cover letter this might in fact be an email these days or even just some notes as part of the online application process. Many doctors can be confused about the purpose of a cover letter and what to put in. So let’s break it down.

The key issues to address when writing a cover letter or cover email for a job are the following:

  1. Check if a cover letter or email is even required. Some organizations may specifically request you don’t send in a cover letter or email.
  2. Make sure that your CV or Resume is tailored to the position and explains how you are a good candidate and meet all the criteria.
  3. Write a short cover letter or email that specifically mentions the position you are applying for, highlights a key strength you bring to the position and invites the reader to review your CV or Resume.
  4. Finish your cover letter by indicating that you are open to other suitable positions.

All of the above should take you about 4 or 5 sentences. So the end result will be very brief whether its a cover letter or email. You may have been told elsewhere that the a cover letter should be longer and fully address the selection criteria. But I’m going to show you why the “less is more” approach is better. And also cover some other important issues when writing your cover letter.

Don’t Write a Cover Letter if They Ask You Not To.

This should be a fairly obvious point. But if the hospital or organisation asks you not to write a cover letter. As for e.g. NSW Health does. Then don’t do it.

In the days before the internet and web applications cover letters served a different purpose. One function was for candidates to address selection criteria in writing. However, online recruitment systems now allow you to do this by setting up form boxes to complete.

So if the system says not to submit a cover letter then you should obviously concentrate your efforts on filling in the online application and ensuring that your CV covers the key selection criteria in depth.

Write a Brief Cover Letter. So They Read Your Resume.

Assuming that you have taken the time to properly construct a Resume that is tailored to the position. Then you want the person recruiting to read this document. Your cover letter’s main purpose then is to get them to take that action. And if you put in too much detail they may not take that action.

So try this formula which I partly credit Andy La Cavita for some of the concepts here.

First Sentence

Address your letter or email to the person recruiting.


Dear Dr Jones, I am writing to apply for the position of Senior Resident Medical Officer at the Regional Hospital*

*Use the exact title of the position as it reads in the job advert and position

Second Sentence

Tell them why you are a really good candidate for the job. Think about the key strength that you can bring to the role. Is it experience? Is it additional qualifications? Is it something even more unique? For example, for a surgical position, you might something like:

I offer 6 years of clinical experience, including 4 years of excellent performance in surgical registrar roles, which makes me a good candidate for the position.

It is important to finish this sentence by indicating that you are a good candidate. You can use other words like outstanding or great. But the key thing here is that recruiters don’t want to hire mediocre or below average people for their jobs. So signal that you are not one of those candidates.

Third Sentence

If there are any key must haves. Make sure that they know you have these. There are certain requirements for medical posts that you just “won’t pass go” on if you don’t have them. So you want to make sure that these are highlighted to avoid being prematurely culled.

A great example of this is International Medical Graduates applying for positions where an IMG will be considered. Often times employers will want to see that you have met the basic requirements for being registered and therefore eligible to apply. So you might use an example such as:

I have recently completed my AMC Certificate with outstanding marks and I have a current IELTS test score with an average of 8.0. I also hold Permanent Resident status.

For other College training positions a sentence like

I am registered as a trainee with College having made good progress in my training requirements to date.

Fourth Sentence

Let them know about your CV or Resume.

The key here is to create intrigue.

First, obviously, make sure that your Resume is tailored and has a personal statement or career goal statement in alignment with the position.

Then write a sentence similar to the below.

I have taken the time to read the position description and put together a CV that highlights several key strengths that I would bring to this position.

You are telling the recruiter several things in this short sentence.

Firstly, you have taken the time to really consider the job role that they probably wrote and put some effort into. So you are sincere in your interest and not just simply fishing. Secondly, that you have bothered to align your career with that of the job in an effort to demonstrate to the person recruiting how you might be a good candidate. And thirdly, that it will be worth their while reading your CV, because there are some exciting aspects to it.

Fifth and Final Sentence

Close off with a call to action. Your best case scenario is to get a meeting before the proper interview. So aim for this.

I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you if you feel that I am a good candidate for this job or any other suitable job in the hospital.

You are telling them that you would like a phone call or in person meeting. You are also indicating that you are not just interested in the job but the hospital or organisation in general. Managers and doctors in recruiting roles also like to feel that candidates are seeking out their organisation because of its reputation. Also, there often job opportunities coming up that have not yet been advertised. So you are establishing an insider run for these as well.

And that’s it.

You have now either written a four or five sentence letter or email that:

  • Establishes your interest in the job and the organization
  • Signals that you are a strong candidate
  • Highlights a key strength
  • Checks off on any “must haves”
  • Intrigues the reviewer to want to read more in your Resume
  • Sets you up for an initial conversation

Related Questions.

Question. How Do I Make Sure I Address the Selection Criteria In My Resume?


Some criteria will be easy to demonstrate, for e.g. your medical degree and registration status. Just make sure these are listed briefly in the correct section on the front page. You should use the opening personal or career statement on your CV to cover off on the remaining criteria. You may not be able to go into depth for all criteria. Where it makes better sense to do so indicate that certain criteria are covered under your work experience, education etc… and then ensure that you use further narrative in those sections to make your case.

Question. What If They Ask For a Personal Statement or Letter Addressing Selection Criteria?


If there is a definite request for a Personal Statement or letter addressing the criteria. Then you should obviously write one. In which case, there is not much sense repeating yourself too much in your CV. Include a briefer personal statement or career statement and then concentrate on other aspects of your CV.

Question. How Do I Find the Selection Criteria?


You would think that it would be fairly obvious on a job description what the selection criteria are.

But sadly in my experience, this is not always the case. Sometimes these are listed under the heading Selection Criteria. That heading might read Requirements instead. Sometimes you may also see Sections like Required Skills and Qualifications.

When in doubt you should try to contact the person recruiting to clarify the actual Criteria by which you will be evaluated.

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