Not the most exciting of topics I hear you say, and/or do people still bother with those? The answer is yes. In fact, more and more clients are asking candidates to complete cover letters to support their applications, some of which will not even consider an application without one. The most common questions I hear are - “But why? All, the information is on my CV” or “Will a generic one do?” It’s simple, a client who asks for a cover letter is generally doing it to establish something that your CV can’t tell them. They want to know that you understand who they are, and what the job actually entails. They also want to know that you are invested in the process, taking the time to prepare a short cover letter helps demonstrate this. Lastly, many do it simply to be fair and transparent – they want all candidates to go through the same process and give you an equal opportunity to highlight skills and experiences that may not be demonstrated on your CV. In the current market, finding ways to set yourself apart from the sea of applications is always advisable. For a client who has not asked for a cover letter, they tend to be impressed by someone who has taken the time to prepare one - as long as it is specific to the company and tailored to the role. It really is a simple, and effective way to stand out.
Top tips for drafting the perfect Cover Letter –
1. The first, and probably the most important, is delete your generic copy! It is very important that a cover letter is tailored specifically for each and every role you apply for.
2. It does not need to be an essay. Too long can be as bad as too short, becoming waffly and hard to read! Stick to one or two pages. This is a snapshot of you and your experience / skills – think of it as an evaluator pitch, but in writing.
3. Break it down using this simple formula – P1 – State what role you are interested in, also why you are interested in doing that role for the organisation. In this bit, let the organisation see you have taken the time to research who they are P2 – State your key skills and experience. Bullet point your key skills and experience against the person spec and the job specification P3- Include a short paragraph expressing that you would welcome the opportunity to meet with the hiring team to discuss your application to cover and answer any questions they may have. Close: Finish with a simple summary sentence encompassing all you have said above about why you feel you are right for this role in this company.
4. Be honest – Organisations appreciate this and will take good attitude and passion over a desirable skill everytime. Make particular note of your transferrable skills and/or how you could expand these
5. Spell check – It might sound obvious, but spelling and grammar checks are essential. I still receive a significant amount of cover letters with spelling/grammar errors (and these can come from very senior candidates!). I myself am dyslexic, so I do understand, but if you are like me, I recommend getting someone else to sense check it for you as well as using the outlook checker.
6. Keep it simple! Do not use images, emojis, pink fonts, fancy text etc. You want to make it as easy to read and digest as possible.
7. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to allow your personality to shine through in your writing style, as long as you remain professional and concise. From a candidate perspective, cover letters are a great tool to encourage you to think in detail about the role and organisation. I have people pull out once they have started their cover letter, realising it’s not the right role for them. This can be great, as it allows them to put their time and effort into a role that truly excites them.
A short, snappy and tailored cover letter can, and will, take you from a maybe or no to a must see candidate. I am a seasoned recruiter with 30 year’s experience and still value the power of a well versed cover letter. Recently, when shortlisting for a specific client, I mentally rejected a candidate due to her seemingly limited essential experience. I emailed her the rejection, to which she responded with a cover letter in support of her application (using all the tips above). I was blown away – she went from a straight out no, to the first candidate I presented to my client. She quickly became an absolute front runner and soon after was offered the role! I recently received an email from this very candidate, thanking me for my help getting her “dream role” – so I guess this story really did have a happily ever after. The formula here is simple, self-avocation was the differentiator and a well-considered cover letter the tool.
So, what’s really standing in the way of your dream role, your experience or how it is being presented? For more support and guidance in producing a role winning cover letter, or to discuss our live job opportunities, get in touch with Claire on 07968 161883 or email@example.com