Have you ever thought about the application process for a job? Why does one person get a great new career opportunity when another doesn’t even get a “thanks, but no thanks” email? Before we get into the detail of writing a compelling cover letter, spare a thought for the person at the other end of the process. The recruiter. A good job is going to attract a lot of interest, and interest from strong candidates, so how can you catch the recruiter’s eye?
Write a poor cover letter and your CV might never be read!
The application window is now closed and our recruiter (let’s call her Tara) has a list of 50 applicants. Each one has been asked to send their CV and optionally a cover letter. Depending on the job, the applicants might have been asked to answer a few questions too. So let’s think about the problem Tara faces.
A cover letter is one page, a CV maybe two. Plus a couple of pages of questions. We’ll call it five pages of information, for the sake of easy maths. How long is it going to take Tara to read five pages of detailed information? How long is it going to take her to review those five pages for all fifty candidates? The answer is ‘a very long time’ and breaking news, that’s not how she’s going to start reviewing candidates!
Tara is going to start by reading the cover letters and immediately sorting the applications into piles!
Your CV lists what you know, your cover letter says who you are!
Tara, like every other recruiter, is looking for two things when they read your application.
- Do you have the skills to do the job?
- Will you fit into the culture of the organisation?
Tara will read your cover letter and start to build a picture of you in her mind. Can you communicate clearly? Do the things you say fit in with the organisation’s way of doing things? Polite? Insightful? Relevant?
Tara will then look for something that stands out. Something that makes her want to put you into the ‘yes’ pile. Something to make her read your CV and realise that you are the candidate she really does want to invite for an interview. If your CV tells the story of your skills, then a great cover letter should start to tell the story of you
Research shows just how important a cover letter is!
It’s not just Tara who thinks that cover letters are important. A recent survey showed that 24% of hiring managers regularly reject applicants and skip going through their entire application solely because of a poorly written cover letter. The survey went on to say that 81% of valued tailored cover letters significantly over generic ones and that using a generic cover letter “hurt an applicant’s chances for the job.”
These results reflect the feedback we get from recruiters and hiring managers. The message is clear, if you want to give your application the best possible chance of success, carefully write a tailored cover letter!