There’s been a lot of noise about cover letters recently, amongst agency & in-house recruiters, candidates and clients alike. Is the cover letter dead? In the age of freely available information and social media profiles how relevant are they? Does anyone read them? Do I need to bother? Will it do me more harm than good?
Articles I've read from other recruiters have left me in despair and even ashamed of my industry at times - so after reading more on the subject this morning, I'd like to chuck in my 2 pence - for what it's worth.
If you’re reading this as a job seeker, I'd implore you to ignore anything you have read implying that a covering letter is meaningless, irrelevant and will be "chucked straight into the bin".
Nonsense - and quite frankly, I'd ask if that was a type of recruiter you want to be involved with in the first place (that’s a rant for another day).
The cover letter is not only a door opener, a teaser to read more, essential to making sure you stand out, adds context to your CV & application - it’s good manners. Surely in our digital age good manners are not disappearing too. Are they?
True, the cover letter has evolved. The hand written, perfectly paragraphed, lengthy life story and sales pitch to rival that of a door to door vendor, along with briefcases & comedy ties, belongs in the 90’s. Leave it there.
Today’s cover letter is shorter, but it packs a bigger punch. But it is essential, you do need to bother and, as a recruiter of over 17 years’ experience, I DO STILL WANT TO SEE ONE.
So what’s in it?
It needs to say what your CV doesn’t & highlight your candidacy. Here are some basic guidelines of what I like to see:
·Short but sweet between 2 & 5 sentences is enough, any longer and you’ll dilute the effect you want it to have or invite skim reading.
·Show some enthusiastic interest: Add character, rich language & give clichés a wide berth.What caught your eye about this ad? Why send the CV?
·Put it into Context: Why are you looking? Available now or notice to give?What sort of salary expectations do you have? If your address is out of kilter with the location of the role – explain your intention.
·Headline your experience in one sentence:You can tailor just this one sentence depending on which job you are applying for. You go into too much detail and you shoot yourself in the foot, but highlight the best general skills and experience for the bits you know about the job or the agency / employer you are applying to.“EG. For over 5 years I’ve led account management teams for premium FMCG brands to top 4 grocery multiples & won category captainship with Tesco & Asda, increasing volume sales by over 10%.”
·Articulate the best method in which to contact you.No doubt you’ve listed all contact details from e-mails to Linkedin profiles and home addresses on your CV.But you need to point out the most suitable method of communication for you (the best time to catch you for a conversation when you are not juggling children / commute to work etc).
It shouldn’t mention
·Problems, limitations or issues with current status
·Too much detail on why you left your last role
·Sky high expectations or plans to be the next US president
For the record, I read cover letters of this nature.Here at PIE we care about the context of your application and that there is a human being behind every CV. We’re also into good manners.
Our research shows that a growing number of employers think that covering letters are unnecessary or, because of the poor quality that they often are, add nothing to the job application. It’s because of this that Jobsite suggests covering letters as an option in job posts.