So you’ve found a job you like the look of. You’ve read the job description, researched the company, the salary is within your range.
You’ve painstakingly re-wrote your CV so you are correctly highlighting the right experiences and skills for the role.
And now the application form is asking if you also want to submit a Cover Letter!?
It can all feel like a bit much, can’t it?
So you go ahead and write a Cover Letter, explaining why you think you are a good fit for the company and trying to highlight or expand on areas of your CV you want the hiring manager to notice.
But was it all worth it? Should you have even bothered?
Short answer, no. Long answer, no with exceptions.
Let’s dive on in shall we.
What Is A Cover Letter?
A cover letter is something a job applicant submits alongside their CV/resume which further highlights their skills and experiences. Often, the cover letter is used to explain why the candidate thinks they are suitable for the role and how they can bring value to the firm. This is in contrast to the CV/resume which only covers past experiences, skills and achievements. The cover letter is usually a bespoke document requiring the candidate to create a new letter for each job applied for, and is often never read by anyone within the hiring firm rendering the whole exercise pointless.
Do You Need To Write A Cover Letter?
Outside of a few niche situations, you do not need to write a Cover Letter. With how the hiring process is recently I would say that in most circumstances writing a Cover Letter will provide absolutely no benefit. If you are applying for multiple roles (as is the case all to frequently) the time you spend writing a tailored Cover Letter is better spent finding and applying for other roles (better by an order of magnitude!)
Why do I say this? – Because 99 times out 100, your Cover Letter will never be seen and will never be read by who you want it read by. That’s just the fact of the matter.
Most recruiters or hiring managers will receive hundreds of applications per role. It is just not feasible for them to read every Cover Letter. What they do instead is filter (either manually or via recruitment software) the applicants down based on their internal criteria. For example: 5 years experience, relevant degree etc.
From there, they have a list of applicants they are ready to interview. It is at this interview where you will get your shot at proving yourself and explaining how you can bring value to the organization.
If I Don’t Need A Cover Letter What Do I Need?
So we’ve established that producing a Cover Letter is generally a waste of effort. What you should focus on instead is:
Nailing your CV – Make sure your CV is up-to-date and that your experience/skillset/qualifications perfectly aligns to the job description (do not be afraid to pepper in some of the same phrases used in the advert!).
Getting your CV reviewed – The best authors still hire editors. Don’t edit and review your own work. Even it means getting your Mum to give it a look: 4 eyes are always better than 2. If you can’t find (or don’t trust) anyone you know then there are places online that will give you a free CV critique (click here to check availability).
Submit Your CV For Review
Level Up Your LinkedIn Profile – Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and includes all of the work experience that you are claiming on your CV (any mismatch will breed distrust and may potentially get you disqualified). Grab as many connections as you can, both from places you have worked in the past (social proof) but also from the places you are applying to (Longfax effect).
When You Should Write A Cover Letter
So if the general idea is that a Cover Letter is not required and is in fact a waste of your time and effort. Why would you ever write one?
Well there are a few specific scenarios where you will want to write a Cover Letter:
When it is a requirement – If the application form specifically says that you are required to submit a Cover Letter then you should do so, else you will likely face immediate rejection.
When you have a previous business relationship to the firm – If you have a connection to the firm such as having worked with the firm before in a previous capacity, then you want to get that highlighted as best you can – for example, you could have worked with a supplier or one of the firm’s customers and have made connections within the firm as a result.
When you have a personal connection to the firm – I’m sure this sounds like nepotism. And, quite frankly, it is. If you have a personal connection to the firm via friends or family be sure to mention that as the hiring manager will feel more at ease recruiting someone if they have someone already within the organisation vouching for them.
How To Write A Great Cover Letter
To write a great Cover Letter, you need to realise and appreciate these 3 things about the people who will be reading them:
1 – They will also be reading your CV so will be annoyed by reading the same information again just worded differently.
2 – They don’t care about you and what you HAVE done. They care about what you CAN do. And specifically what you can do FOR THEM.
3 – They don’t have time to read a big long essay about your life’s work.
So keeping these 3 things in mind, how do you write the perfect Cover Letter?
Go to the job advert, read it through again but this time put yourself in the shoes of the person who wrote it. Now pick the 3 most important requirements (to the hiring manager), copy and paste them into your Cover Letter and explain how you can complete that role for them.
That’s it. That’s the perfect Cover Letter.
1 – You have not repeated the information in your CV
2 – You have identified what they need and explained how you can provide value
3 – You have given them this information in a quick and easily digestible format.
Win. Win. Win.
Good luck in your subsequent interview.