There are many things about application letters which can be a "turn-off' for an employer, apart from the NUMBER of applications they may receive, and the fact that so many of these are almost IDENTICAL.

One of the best ways to find out what makes an application letter good,
is to look closely at what makes them BAD.

The following advertisement is for a Junior Clerk's position:

JUNIOR CLERK - We req. an enthus. jun. asst. (16-18) for our office in inner subs. This is a perm. posn. with v.good career opp. Attract. sal. and conds. No exp. nec. but some bckgd in gen. office duties an advant. Training provided for right person. Please apply in own handwriting and send copies of refs. to:
Personnel Officer
Uneedus Employers
P.O. Box 136
Closing date: 18th September

From the selected replies received (shown below) you must choose ONE applicant for an interview.

Before giving your reasons why that one is better, you have to:
  • draw up a LIST of at least 15 things that are WRONG with the other letters, and
  • draw up a list of all the GOOD points you can find from the other letters.
Once you have completed your lists, you should make sure that when you write an application letter that you include some of the good points, and definitely AVOID the bad ones!



This letter was handwritten.

6 Marshall Road
Kangaroo Flat 2291
20th September 2015

The Personal Officer
Uneedus Employers,

Dear Sir/Madam


I wish to apply for the above position which you resently advertised.

I am a very enthusiastic young person who is keen in working for an organisation such as yours. My references are attached.

Thank you for your time.



Other points you couldn't see....
Handwriting was very sloppy. Numerous ink fingerprints on letter
(obviously pen was leaking badly).

This letter was handwritten

24 Aries Street

16th Sept., 2015

The Personnel Officer
Uneedus Employers,
P.O. Box 136

Dear Sir

     I refer to your advertisement in last Saturday's "Daily News" and I feel that I have the necessary requirements for this position.

     After spending several weeks during my school holidays and on work experience, working in the offices of several firms, I am confident that I am suited to this particular work situation.

     I have attached a copy of my résumé for your perusal. Please note that I can be contacted by telephoning my Uncle on 2189933

Yours faithfully

(unreadable signature here)

This application was typed

16 Thomas Street,
September 14th, 2015.

The Personnel Manager,

Dear Sir or Madam,

    I wish to apply for the position of junior clerk which is presently vacant in your organisation. I have enclosed copies of my résumé and references as you requested. I am very interested in office work and I have worked on several occasions assisting my sister-in-law with her small business. I find this type of work very enjoyable as it provides enough variety to keep me occupied. I always seem to be discovering new ways of doing the different tasks involved and I find this stimulating. I would be very interested in having an interview about this position with you. I am available for this interview at any time. I can be contacted at the above address.

Yours truely,

(signature here)

Karry Meback

This application was handwritten

The Personnel Office, Uneedus Employers
PO Box 136
Wombat North 2223
29 Jacobs Street
Victoria 3129
17th September

Re: Junior Clerk
Dear Mrs Brown,

    I would like to be considered for the above position that you are offering. I have been working for the past three years in a clerical position with a major furniture company, which provided me with the opportunities to developed the skills I obtained in the one year Technical College course I completed. I am competant at operating a wide variety of office equipment and am familiar with the numerous systems used in office administration.

    I have attached more detailed information on my suitability for this position in my Personal Summary. I have also obtained a reference from my former employers which I can produce if required. I hope to hear from you in the near future with regard to this application.

Yours sincerely

(signature here)

This application was a combination of typed and handwritten


126 Johnson Road,
15th September , 2015.

The Personnel Officer
Uneedus Employers,
P.O. Box 136 WOMBAT NORTH 2223.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to apply for the position of:
(handwritten) junior clerk which you recently advertised.

My name is Jerri Canne. I am 17 years of age and reside at the above address. My qualifications and experience are shown in detail on the attached résumé.

Since completing the full-time day Secretarial Course at Tarrigal TAFE, I have been working in a voluntary capacity as a clerical assistant with the Tarrigal Community Services Centre. This has given me experience in office duties, typing and some handling of enquiries from the public. I have attached a reference from the co-ordinator of the Centre, along with four other references which you may find interesting.

I hope to be given an opportunity to discuss with you my suitability for this position.

Yours sincerely, (signature here)

So... Did you find the boo-boos?


Letter 1: Late application, spelling mistakes, incomplete business address, ink blotches (very messy), only repeats words from advertisement, says nothing new, didn't specify when/where job was advertised, "thank you"?. This late, boring letter contradicts what it actually says.

Letter 2: Dear Sir, didn't say what job, every sentence is too long, didn't attach references as asked (or at least didn't say they were attached), can't read signature (male or female?) - thankfully résumé attached which hopefully will clarify name and sex.

Letter 3: Incomplete personal and business addresses, addressed to the Personnel MANAGER, each sentence begins with 'I', no paragraphs, "yours truely"?, letter is typed.

Letter 4: No suburb/town, no year on date line, poor layout, didn't attach reference, no name under signature (above address instead), person is too old for job, didn't mention why they had left former employer, allowed one spelling mistake to creep in (could you find competant?).

Letter 5: Form letter (fill in the blanks style), typed, paragraph 2 unnecessary, too many references attached, yours sincerely and Dear Sir/Madam don't go together.


Letter 1: Dear Sir/Madam, obvious which position application is for, enclosed references, started using the language used in the advertisement to form the letter but did not enlarge on it, printed name under signature.

Letter 2: Proper business format for addresses, almost a good introduction, good ideas in 2nd paragraph, attached résumé and SAID that is was attached, pointed out that they had no home telephone.

Letter 3: Attached résumé and references, good reason for liking the work, pushing the person into following the letter up, name under signature.

Letter 4: Found out the name of the Personnel Officer (may be good), outlines all relevant experience, attached résumé, yours sincerely and Mrs Brown are correct together.

Letter 5: Shows that although has not been able to get a full-time job, has been usefully filling in time and gaining experience. "Form" letter may be a good idea if writing many applications but can result in the reply not properly matching a particular position, pushes the person into following letter up.

Looking at the list of faults and good points from this exercise, try to:

  • draw up your own "Rules for Application Letters" chart which outlines simply the best ways to write application letters which will create a good impression with an employer.

  • try to re-write in your own words, two of the five letters from that exercise, improving on them wherever necessary.

Look closely at the advertisement used at the start of this exercise:

  1. write out a list of the important information it gives you about the job and the type of person required and what it wants you to do.

  2. write your own reply to this advertisement.

Some more good and bad features to consider...
Return to Job Applications index.