How important is a cover letter?

You tend to find that job hunters focus on their CVs and therefore don’t always spend enough time preparing a concise and engaging cover letter. A cover letter is your opportunity to make a great first impression as it is highly likely that employers will read your cover letter first and then the CV. Therefore, a focused cover letter may be the deciding factor as to whether you will be even considered for the job opportunity in the first place. 

A cover letter is your opportunity to make a great first impression!

The majority of applications are now made by email and a large amount of job hunters will include a cover letter in the body of the email text. It is important to realise how important this initial introduction is, especially if the application is for a role that is highly competitive and receives high levels of applicants. A recent article mentioned that nearly 50% of recruiters consider cover letters to be just as important as a CV and according to this survey the majority of applicants spend the least amount of their time on these documents. 

CVpal specialise in writing cover letters and we have some great hints and tips to ensure that you are not one of the applicants that fall at the first hurdle. 

  1. Do not write too much, a cover letter needs to be a concise overview of why you feel you have the right experience and skills to apply for the role. A cover letter is not a personal statement – these documents are always much more comprehensive and provide evidenced examples of all job requirements on the specification. 
  2. Review and analyse the job specification and ensure that you are making your application relevant. A copy and paste version just does not work and is very easily spotted by recruiters and employers. 
  3. Ensure your cover letter is structured correctly with a beginning, middle and end. Make sure what you are expressing this is logical and is easy to read and understand. 
  4. Refer to the company and why you are applying. Briefly demonstrate that you have researched the opportunity and the business. 
  5. Make sure you sell yourself – no one else will! 
  6. Although it is also vital to ensure that you do not oversell – you need to get the right balance.
  7. Ensure that you have read and fully understood the application process; some employers will ask you to address specific questions in your cover letter or provide expected salary bandings etc. Obviously if you are stating that you have strong attention to detail and then miss these key questions you are immediately in a losing battle. 
  8. End your letter with a call to action and try to encourage a response from the employer or recruiter. 
  9. A cover letter is a personal document and therefore (unlike a CV) needs to be written in the first person. However, try to limit using ‘I’ all the time as this can become rather irritating and uncomfortable for the reader. 
  10. Modern technology means there are no excuses for poor grammar or spelling. 
  11. If possible try and write the letter to the individual recruiter or employer rather than “Dear Sir / Madam” – this makes it more personal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling the company and asking for the name of the individual who will be dealing with applications. 
  12. Like your CV, try to demonstrate your success by using % figures rather than exact amounts as success can be very subjective! 

If you approach a cover letter with the above structure then you will be one step closer to securing an interview.