When a job application specifies the need to provide a ‘covering letter’ (or most likely covering email) it is very common for candidates to disregard its importance in setting first impressions with the recruiter. In an age where text and email language is informal, candidates often struggle to articulate their interest in the role and how their experience relates to it effectively enough to secure an interview.
Covering letters are still an extremely popular way to apply for roles on job or company websites. The question is: ‘what do recruiters actually take from a covering letter when assessing a candidate and does it affect your chances?’
There are no real statistics on this but many recruiters do stress the importance of a good covering letter. However, remember that this is the first thing a recruiter will read before looking at your CV, if at all, so your covering letter is your chance to stand out from the crowd. Aim to show your personality, interest in the role and remember it is your first stage elevator pitch to sell yourself to an employer/recruiter. Covering letters provide a medium to introduce yourself professionally to recruiters and they show your attention to detail without reciting a list of your qualifications or career history.
The general style of a good covering letter is as follows:
Introduce yourself professionally.
Articulate your most recent and in particularly your most relevant career experience, success and qualifications (if applicable), SUCCINCTLY!
Reinforce your interest and passion for the role as well as your personality, something a CV or application form cannot do.
By making your covering letter personalised and tailored to each role you apply for you maximise your chances to secure an interview. But to really help you write a covering letter, here is a bit more detail on what I find the most effective structure of a good covering letter.
Firstly, set out a consistent and professional standard covering letter that is the same style as your CV. It is best they look alike to illustrate your attention to detail.
Personal details are a must especially your phone number in case your covering letter gets separated from your CV.
Introduce yourself professionally and set out in a few sentences your background, discipline and what position your letter is in application to.
This is where you pick out the key highlights from your career and qualifications and in particular demonstrate how your past experience and achievements make you the ideal candidate for the role. This is tricky to do and should correlate seamlessly with your CV without being just a duplicate version of your CV.
This is where you summarise in one or two sentences your passion for the role and the company in which you are applying for. It expresses that you have done some research and not just sent away a standard letter to numerous other companies. Employers want you to work for them so let them see that in the letter, thereby ending on a high note. The positive statements will make sure you stay at the forefront of their mind.
Make sure you sign off your letter correctly, for example, if have a named contact then end your letter with ‘Yours Sincerely’ whereas if your letter is addressed to ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ then your letter must end with ‘Yours Faithfully’.
Now you have your standard letter, you can just tweak (throughout) to make it unique to each company and targeted at each role.
I hope you have found the above guidance helpful and can feel confident in how to practically apply it.
*Emma Alkirwi is the Managing Director of the CV Guru which is a leading service provider of professionally written CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, cover letters and they also provide specialist consultancy services. Emma has over 10 years experience in recruitment- and employment-related services covering a wealth of industries. Having been a professional employment consultant for several years, she has provided professional advice covering everything from professional CV/LinkedIn writing, effective job searching, interview skills and preparation, presentation techniques, and general professional coaching.