Cover Letters? An essential part of a job application or just another contribution to global warming………………………………………..
As a recruiter the debate about if a candidate should include a cover letter along with their CV as part of their job application is something that comes up on a regular basis. My advice generally has been not to include one & definitely not a generic one attached to all applications. The letter will often not even be opened on an email, let alone read & presented to a hiring manger. How often have you been in an interview where the interviewer has had a copy of your CV & your cover letter? (I’m sure there is somebody reading this who has had their cover letter used in an interview, but not many).
The purpose of a cover letter is to expand on the information on your CV & support your application for each specific job applied for, but if these are being thrown in the bin (recycling bin of course), deleted or not even opened shouldn’t we just forget the whole idea of writing them? Or is there another alternative? The alternative I advise is something that should be done for every job application already & that is to tailor your CV for every job you apply for.
If your initial reaction to this suggestion is ‘I don’t have time to amend my CV for every job that I apply for’ then you are applying for too many jobs & most probably ones that you are not qualified/experienced for. A CV is a ‘brief summary’ of your career to date & does not & cannot include every responsibility you have had or every project that you have ever worked on, so the chances of your generic CV ticking every box for a specific role are very slim.
Now firstly I’m not suggesting writing a new CV for every job that you apply for, but what I am saying is that amending 10-20% to highlight your relevant experience will increase your chances of getting an interview. So if you look at the position description & determine what key criteria they are looking for & then expand your CV around these areas to highlight your suitability – again this has to be genuine experience from your career, I am definitely not suggesting you lie on your CV to get an interview.
This should take roughly less than half an hour to do per application which if you are only applying to relevant jobs is a small amount of time in the grand scheme of your career. Unlike a cover letter, you know that all of this information will be seen & then discussed at the interview as part of the hiring process. So next time you are typing up or sending an old pre-written cover letter, stop, & put the time & effort in to making sure your CV includes all the relevant information giving you the best chance of securing an interview. Then all you have to do is blow them away at interview stage & get a fantastic offer to secure your dream role, but that is moving on to a completely separate blog!!
Written by Andy Malek, Consultant at Selection Partners.