Career

Is a cover letter necessary? Or is it dead?

The short answer is – it depends.  Most people will say they are absolutely necessary regardless of the position, but are hiring managers and recruiters actually reading them? Or, in an information age where we’re hit with so much content, has the cover letter had its day?

Let’s look at the facts: in a survey of 1400 recruiters, two-thirds said it’s not an important factor when reviewing applications. Added to this studies have revealed that on average recruiters spend 6.25 seconds reviewing your suitability for a role. It’s safe to say that most recruiters and busy hiring managers don’t have the time, nor desire to read a cover letter.

It’s clear cover letters are either dead or on their death bed, right? Well, we think they still have their place.

For more experienced candidates there are times where a short message is enough. Essentially, when your experience speaks for itself a short message should be fine – recruiters and hiring managers are just skipping to your CV anyway. However, graduates do need to stand out. And even for more experienced professionals, there have been times where candidates have been dismissed on their CV but reconsidered based on their cover letter. It can make the difference.

So, although hardly anyone’s going to read it and it can often feel like a massive pain, it’s definitely worth putting some time into getting your cover letter right. Here are some tips on how to stand out when writing yours!

KEEP IT SHORT

Seriously, don’t waffle on. You don’t need to talk about what’s already on your CV.  This is a chance to sell yourself and give insight into your personality. Particularly when applying to small firms, the cover letter can give hiring managers and recruiters a glimpse into your culture fit.  Here’s a general structure to follow:

– Introduce yourself – be energetic, passionate and interesting.

– Find a connection and give reasons as to why you’re applying.

– What’s unique about you / What’s your view on the world.

– Call to action – perhaps suggest a time and date for a follow up.

DON’T BE GENERIC

Avoid using “Dear Sirs” for a start! Don’t make it look like you’ve copied and pasted it and don’t use overused phrases, e.g. “I’m a team player”.

DO BE SPECIFIC

Companies use a ‘Why, What, and How’ principle to selling themselves. This can certainly apply to you too. Make sure you tell them why are you interested, what can you offer, and how will you make a difference to them.

CONSIDER IMPROVING YOUR CV.

Many of the new applicant tracking systems that recruitment agencies and businesses are using actually proven you from sending a cover letter. A shame, but a reality that a lot of the software out there is dated (despite the new and emerging platforms coming into the market). With that in mind try to roll in your cover letter into your CV – we’ve seen this done brilliantly.  Some ways to do this include;

Adding a summary (a sort of elevator pitch about yourself.

Include personal interests and hobbies outside work

Highlight your accomplishments

Promote your social media channels (while making sure you’re actually using them!)

Last but not least – proofread it! And don’t make any smelling terrors.

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Alex
I’m a Founding Partner of Bamboo Crowd. I help our clients invest better in people and scale through Engine. I solve recruitment challenges and help our clients source the best talent across operations, business development, programme management, and technology. Ask me about good films, beards and hip hop.