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The General Training test includes two writing tasks. One is a 250-word essay and the other is a 150-word letter.  

In the letter-writing task you will need to write a letter to someone for a specific purpose, and in your letter address a common, everyday issues or tasks, such as writing a job application letter. 

Today we will look at some key items you need to address to successfully write a job application letter for Writing Task 1. You can also apply most of what you will learn here to any IELTS letter writing task.  

When writing your job application letter, remember to: 

  1. Present a clear purpose – why you are writing the letter 

  2. Use the correct tone 

  3. Address all three bullet points completely and relevantly 

  4. Write in letter format 

Let’s look at the following sample task. And before you read the tips that follow, think about how you would approach this task so you can compare and adapt your approach after you have finished reading this article. Ask yourself specific questions before you write. 

You have learned about an international job that is available within the company you currently work for and you want to apply. 

Write a letter to the hiring manager. In your letter 

  • Say why you are applying for this international position 

  • Describe the job you are currently doing for the company 

  • Tell him/her why you think you will be good at the job 

Begin your letter as follows: Dear Sir or Madam

Find the situation and purpose of the letter

Make sure you read the task carefully to understand the situation and purpose of the letter. Pausing for a moment to analyse the task, highlight key points or take notes will help you build a logical background story and make it easier to write the letter.  

If we look at the question above, it appears that:  

  • You already work for this company 

  • You now want to work for them in an international location.  

Ask yourself the following questions to help craft your response: 

  • Why would someone want to move to another country to work?  

  • What kind of work could you be doing now that would make you a good candidate to move?  

  • What special skills or experience could you have that would make you good for the job? 

If we put the above tips into action, we might imagine a scenario where your job application letter would address the following points: 

  • Maybe you work as a product manager with a company and you are very familiar with the product that is launching in this other part of the world.  

  • You would also like to travel abroad with your family for the experience and you have all the skills and success stories that would make you the best person to launch the product somewhere else.  

  • You also speak the mother tongue of that country or perhaps you are fluent in English which is the business language there.  

And remember to write an opening sentence that clearly explains why you are writing the job application. For example: 

  • I am writing to express an interest in... 

  • I am writing to apply for... 

  • I am writing in response to the international job opening... 

Determine if you need to write a formal or informal letter.

You will be told in the instructions who you are writing to. If you are told to begin a letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” this is a signal to be formal, using a formal tone. 

In this case, you are writing to the hiring manager, not your boss or anyone you know and you are specifically instructed to begin your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. So, make sure you do this.  

If you are not given instructions to begin your letter with “Dear Sir or Madam”, then make sure you begin your formal letter with ‘Dear Mr./ Miss/ Mrs. / Ms. Smith’ because you are not friends with the recipient.   

In addition, the purpose of the letter is a serious one because you are applying for a job, so use a more serious tone to write your letter. To keep to the formal tone: 

  • Begin your letter with a formal address (e.g. Dear Sir or Madam) 

  • Keep to the point or purpose of the letter and don’t use contractions (e.g. can’t, don’t, won’t) 

  • Sign your letter off formally (e.g. Yours faithfully, followed by your full name)

Answer all the bullet points

You will notice that this task specifically asks you to do three things in three bullets:  

  1. Say why you are applying for this international position 

  2. Describe the job you are currently doing for the company that would make you a good choice 

  3. Tell him/her why you think you will be good at the job in another country 

The highlighted words can help you see how the situation informs this task’s requirements.  

Remember that the ultimate purpose of this letter is to get the job. Therefore, you should keep that in mind when choosing details to include in each bullet and come up with ideas to support that objective. 

Take your time to come up with a good story, so you can better interpret the task and create details that clearly and logically support your points. Take notes to answer the questions in the task. For example: 

Why international position?

  • Want international experience: build a better understanding of the xxxx culture and develop new language skills

  • Partner has family in xxxx: would like your own children to have the opportunity to live closer to relatives for some time and learn about the culture

What about your current job makes you a good candidate?

  • You have 10 years of experience working with the same company

  • Just completed an additional qualification in leadership and staff management

Why are you the best candidate for the job in that country?

  • Have a proven success record: won best manager of the year two years in a row.

  • Will easily adapt to the situation: partner comes from there and there is family to support you and your family as you adapt to living in the new environment

When you write your answers, be sure to give examples that support your ideas. 

Use paragraphs

If you are not sure on how many paragraphs to include in your response to the job opening, the simple answer is 5:  

  • A short one to begin.  

  • Three longer ones in the middle 

  • Another short one to end.  

And remember, you must start and finish the letter using the correct letter-writing conventions (Dear.../Yours...). 

For example: 

Dear Sir or Madam: 

Paragraph One begins: 

My name is Mark Jones and I am writing to express my interest in the position of product manager for the launch of moon boots in Italy . . .  

Paragraph Two begins: 

The reason why I am seeking this international position is . . .  

Paragraph Three begins: 

My current position as product manager of moon boots in Australia has given me many valid skills and experiences for this job . . . 

Paragraph Four begins: 

I believe that I am an excellent candidate for two good reasons . . . 

Paragraph Five begins: 

Should you require further information, do not hesitate to contact me. Please find my CV attached. 

Yours faithfully, 

Mark Jones 

Notice how each of the three longer body paragraphs begin with a sentence that directly relates back to the bullets in the task. This is a great way to remind yourself what details to include in that paragraph. It will also make your letter easier to follow.  

You do not have to limit yourself to one paragraph for each bullet point. If you have a lot to say about each bullet point in the task, you can break it out into more paragraphs. 

You can divide supporting details into separate paragraphs, so long as you clearly indicate (using connecting words and/or indenting the next paragraph) when you have moved to the next detail or next main bullet point. 

Practising writing letters can be fun if you take the time to create a logical back story. A good imagination makes it easier, but if you put these tips into practice in your response, you might get more than just the IELTS score you need. It can help you apply for your dream job abroad.