In the age of LinkedIn and online job applications we are often asked if a cover letter is essential when applying for a new job.
Most websites suggest and include the option of attaching a cover letter for a job application or signing up to their hiring service.
Yet because it is often not presented as essential, and just a suggestion, most applicants choose not to write one.
But from our experience a covering letter is an essential part of a job application and can help you stand out from the pack.
Why a cover letter is essential for a job application
Last week a candidate applied for a role after the deadline. We had already arranged some interviews and the client was happy with who we had sent.
Yet because this candidate had emailed me a cover letter, along with her CV, she stood out from the other applicants.
Because of her strong cover letter I was happy to ask the client if they’d accept another candidate, despite the late application. Because of her strong cover letter the client agreed.
She was a good applicant, and had an impressive CV, so the client may have selected her for an interview regardless. But it definitely helped her to stand out to both myself and the client, increasing her chances of getting an interview.
How to write a kick ass cover letter
When done well, a cover letter can be the greatest asset to a job application.
But when done badly, it can do more damage than good. One of the biggest turn offs for hiring managers is a generic cover letter.
Almost half of recruiters (48%) have said they will dismiss a cover letter that they don’t feel has been personalised for the role.
This can stink of someone who has sent bulk emails and applications out, without giving much thought to who they have sent it to and what they are applying for.
If someone has taken a lazy approach into applying for a new job it doesn’t suggest a strong work ethic in the workplace.
Take the personalised approach
A good starting point is simply addressing the letter to the recruiter or hiring manager that is named on the job advertisement.
It shows the reader that the applicant has taken the time to read through the advert properly before applying for the role.
Try to reference any specific details from the advert that made you apply to the role. This might be the name of the employer if mentioned, the type of contract or environment the role is based in, or the location of the role.
Any information that directly addresses the role you have applied for, will always be a benefit.
You must bear in mind, that for some positions, the recruiter or hiring manager could receive over 100 applicants and will appreciate any effort to go above and beyond.
Although it might be tedious to have to write different versions to different roles, it will be worth the additional work.
You could even keep a template of the general ideas of your cover letter (e.g. why you are looking, some past experience etc), so that all you need to do is tailor individual points to each application.
What is 10 minutes extra effort to write a proper cover letter, when it could potentially result in you getting you the job of your dreams?
How long should a cover letter be?
A cover letter does not need to be long. Make it a length that allows the hiring manager to get a good impression of who you are and what drew you to their role, whilst adding some additional value to your CV.
We recommend less than a full page. Use short concise paragraphs, that are clearly separated and easy to read.
Long bodies of text can be difficult to get through and any momentum supporting your application might get lost, if the reader has a challenge to stay focused upon it.
How to write a cover letter step by step
• Start by addressing the hiring manager. Most job adverts will mention the name of a hiring manger. Use this so that is stands out to them. If there is no name, you could call the office number to see who is responsible for the role, and then address it to them.
• Introduction – This should include why you are writing the letter and what role you are applying for.
• Paragraph two – This could include some further details about your current situation, that your CV alone might not suggest, e.g. why you are looking or what has attracted you to this role. Some information about you, that your CV alone might not suggest.
• Paragraph three – In this section include why you think your skills and experience could be of value to the company you are applying to. Always try to reference a couple of specific points from the advert. Remember you have already attached your CV, so you don’t need to just duplicate this.
• Paragraph four – Thank the person for taking the time to read your application and then sign off by stating if they require any more information to let you know.
Example cover letter
If you would like to see an example of a strong cover letter, you can view one here: