How to answer the 3 questions employers expect you to answer in your cover letter/job application

The 3 questions employers expect you to answer in your cover letter/job application are:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Can you work with others and will fit within the organisation?
  • Would I want you as part of my team?

This post seeks to provide you with a framework for answering the first question – Can you do the job? We will address the other two questions in a future post.

Can you do the job?

 To answer this question will often require that you communicate 3 things:
  • Your specialised skill set;
  • Your experience using those specialised skills; and
  • Your transferable skills.

A specialised skill is  gained through study or work experience in a specialised area. The job advertisement will typically provide information about the specific skills the employer is seeking. If you have more than one specialised skill, describe each of those skills – anything that is relevant to your ability to do the job advertised will interest the employer.  If you have certificates that confirm your skills, for example a degree in accounting or a certificate on engineering / mechanical skills from polytech, list those certificates too.

 Be sure to communicate your specialised skills in the context of your previous experience – this helps illustrate to potential employers how you utilised your skills.  If possible, also describe the benefits to your current / previous employers from your utilisation of those skills, so that a potential employer can see how your skills may benefit him / her.
Depending on the position applied for, it may be useful to include describe any transferable skills you may have that is pertinent to the position.  A transferable skill  is one that can be transferred from one situation or type of work to another.  Some common transferable skills employers look for are:
  • communication skills – verbal and written
  • team work skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • initiative and enterprise skills
  • planning and organisational skills
  • management skills
  • learning skills
  • ability to work independently and with minimal supervision
  • health and safety skills.

To enhance the description of your transferable skills, consider describing current / previous responsibilities which demonstrate need for those skills.  For example, responsibility for preparing the monthly reports for your team demonstrate that you have communication skills that are being put in practice.  Similarly, responsibility for managing a group of direct reports is tangible evidence that you have management skills.

For reasons mentioned in the previous post – why your cover letter can be as important as your resume  include the above information in your cover letter instead of only relying on your resume to convey this information.  In certain cases, your cover letter can also be a more suitable forum to include a narrative description of those skills, rather than a resume which may use a bullet point format.