Are cover letters important?
As many more companies move to only receiving soft copy and online applications, people constantly ask if they need to do cover letters any more. At CareerHQ, we believe that cover letters are just as important as they have always been. The purpose of a cover letter is to get the recruiter or hiring manager to read your CV, while the purpose of a CV is to get you an interview for the job.
Do people read cover letters?
Some recruiters will tell you that they never look at cover letters, and that it’s only your experience outlined on your CV that means anything to them. But it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry, and to include one anyway. Try creating a document that includes a one page cover letter followed by a CV, all in one pdf.
What is quite clear is that employers – and especially small business employers – value cover letters, and often just as much as the attached CV.
Create a good first impression
A well written and concise cover letter is your first chance to stand out as a strong candidate amongst the competition. It can help demonstrate your rationale and passion for the role that you can’t communicate in the same way in a CV.
Tailoring your CV to the role, and making sure you have no spelling or grammatical errors, can demonstrate an attention to detail that can’t be shown so readily by your all-purpose CV – especially if you’ve followed a template to set it up.
Showcase your fit to the role
The cover letter is about showcasing your unique combination of skills and attributes, and how these fit with the employer’s needs and can add value to the company.
It should emphasise concisely your most powerful selling points and direct the recruiter or hiring manager to the most relevant and compelling parts of your professional experience. What it shouldn’t do is reiterate all of the information in your CV – rather, it should concentrate on the criteria set out in the job ad or position description, and match your skills, experience and attributes to these. Demonstrating that you understand what the position entails, and what you would bring, is more likely to convince the hiring manager or recruiter that you can add value.
Your aim is to grab the attention of the reader, increasing the likelihood that they will react positively to the letter, and thereby want to read the CV as well.
Enthusiasm and personality
You can use a cover letter as an opportunity to show that you have done research on the company and position, which can help establish a connection with the reader, build the case for your enthusiasm, and show why the employer should hire you, and not someone else.
You can also let some passion and personality show through in your choice of wording and the examples you use to demonstrate your skills and attributes. The trick is to find the right mix of tone, confidence and formality!
Too often, job seekers spend a lot of time putting together their CV, and then tend to treat the cover letter as an afterthought. In fact, it can be the thing that determines whether the recruiter or hiring manager puts your CV into the ‘yes’ bucket, or even reads it at all.
In our next article, we will give you some in-depth tips about the content of a cover letter, and how you can make your application stand out from the crowd!