Cover letters are still a very important part of the recruitment process. The high value placed on cover letters is borne out in some research we carried out at CV Writers. This showed that one in three recruiters would only read a CV if a cover letter impressed them first. Clearly, this is not a risk worth taking and so it makes sense to always include a cover letter with your application.
Keeping it brief
Some job seekers still believe that the more you have to say about yourself, the more likely you are to get an interview. Of course, there is a balance to be struck, but a very short amount of time is spent on CVs and cover letters. Literally seconds. Three to four paragraphs therefore is about right. If you find your letter drifting to a second page you are in danger of including too much detail which will not get read. Remember, this is about getting an interview, not getting the job.
What shall I include?
If there is one message to take away from this article then it should be this – a cover letter is all about showing how you meet the requirements of the person specification. The person specification tells you exactly what you need in terms of expertise and experience to be able to do the job. By showing how you match this you are ticking the right boxes with the employer.
Of course, every job will have different requirements. As a head gardener you will need to demonstrate quite different skills to a garden centre manager. Even jobs with the same job title can have hugely different needs. This is why reading the person specification is so important, it tells you all you need to know about how well matched you are to the role.
It is too easy to simply say you can do something. It is quite another to convincingly demonstrate it. And the best way to demonstrate? Give examples. Providing examples illustrates your expertise in no uncertain terms. It allows the reader to visualise and contextualise your achievements. And the more they can picture, the more likely they are to remember.
Should I include personal circumstances?
You only really want to give information that will help your application. It is not generally a good idea to include anything that raises a question mark in the mind of the reader. So, if you look after an elderly relative or have any other consideration that might give the reader pause for thought, it may be better to save this until interview.
The call to action
Any decision about calling you to interview will only be made after having read your CV. Therefore, the key call to action of your cover letter is to persuade the reader to look at your CV next. So finish your letter by politely pointing the reader to your CV.
Neville Rose is director of CV Writers.