The cover letter: A CV’s best friend

Pubished 3rd December 2018

According to Glassdoor the average job opening attracts 250 resumes. With competition fierce it is paramount for job seekers to grasp any advantage possible, in order to stand out from what is now conceded by recruiters as a candidate driven market. One way to garner this advantage and remain in the minds of hiring managers is to accompany any CV with a covering letter.

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A cover letter is a brief document that is sent in conjunction with a CV during an application process. It should contain detailed reasons why a candidate is interested in the role they are applying for and what makes them the perfect fit. This is accomplished by emphasising the most prominent skills and experience relevant to the role being applied to, particularly focusing on specific examples of success that you may have the opportunity to elaborate on at interview stage. It is therefore advisable that a cover letter is provided with and tailored to each and every role that is applied for, unless stated otherwise by the employer.

Recruiters spend on average 5-7 seconds looking at a CV. Job seekers therefore have a short window of time to impress those responsible for the hiring process. Consequently to ensure recruiters continue to read an application, it is important that cover letters are an extension of the CV rather than a duplication of information. The general consensus regarding length of a cover letter is the shorter the better. Job seekers should therefore aim to demonstrate the most salient points within their covering letter.

But how specifically should a cover letter be written?

Firstly, it must be determined who the letter is addressed to. Generic salutation could be seen as the safest option to open a letter if the hiring manager is not known. However a recipient may feel the letter does not concern them or adequate research has not been undertaken to find out who is responsible for the role. The best method is therefore to address the hiring manager directly. This instantly ensures the letter is personal and suggests to the reader the covering letter has been specifically created for the role in particular.

The opening paragraph should explain briefly why the applicant is reaching out to the hiring manager. Hiring managers can have multiple vacancies running alongside each other. This helps the recruiter understand which role is being applied for. This should be followed by a second paragraph explaining why a jobseeker is suitable for the role, detailing professional and academic qualifications that are specifically relevant to the role. Finally a third paragraph on what the applicant can bring to the organisation is advised, which is a great place to detail any USPs in order to stand out from other candidates.

Finally, signing off a cover letter is just as important as its opening. It is advised to sign off the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ followed by your full name.

Considering 59% of applications are rejected because of poor grammar or spelling errors, once a covering letter has been completed, it is good practice to proofread the document before sending it across to the hiring manager. Grammarly is a great free tool that can be installed onto a computer in order to find writing errors. Alternatively, asking a friend or family member to read an application is a solid method of gathering further tips or spotting mistakes.

With employment rates at an all-time high, the competition for jobs is only becoming fiercer. Job seekers need to offer a differential advantage to stand out and display to employers why they are the perfect fit for a role. A cover letter allows an applicant to provide this detail that a CV cannot demonstrate. In essence, it is the life jacket of the CV.