Why I changed my mind about covering letters

I often get asked by clients whether they need to have a covering letter. I confess historically I wasn’t a fan. When you are on the receiving end of hundreds of CVs a week, rightly or wrongly they are another page to read and in many cases they didn’t add any value. Some of them didn’t include anything of relevance or were just a regurgitation of the CV.

However, I have changed my mind. When written well, in some situations I see their benefit. My advice would be to tailor every application you make. In some cases you should use a covering letter and in others it may be less relevant.

So how can you tell when to include one?

  • Obviously if the application process asks for one, that’s a no brainer.
  • If you are applying directly to an organisation who have advertised on their website or LinkedIn, I suggest you take the time to research the organisation and role thoroughly and include a well thought out, well written covering letter along with your CV.
  • If you are applying to an anonymous job vacancy on a website where you don’t know the company, the hiring manager or the culture and it is going via an agency, I would suggest you just upload your CV (an excellently written one, ensuring you have included the most pertinent experience for what they are asking for on the advert) and don’t add a covering letter.
  • If it is an assignment being handled by a search firm and they have contacted you about the opportunity, I would seek their guidance about whether they want one and whether they will include the covering letters of short listed candidates when they present them to their client. Sometimes they do, sometimes instead they will include your CV and their own candidate report summarising their interview notes.

What should you include in your letter?

  • Write to the hiring manager by name. Do some research to find out who it is. This demonstrates you have taken time to get to know about the opportunity.
  • If there are several identical roles across different divisions of an organisation which would report to different leaders, write to the person heading up the recruitment.
  • Keep it concise and easy to read with no waffle. One page is perfect.
  • Be authentic and human. Write like you would speak, not like a pompous robot.
  • Show you have read their advert and online careers information by using some of their language, and referring elements of it.
  • Include:
    • Why you are interested in the role – what stands out for you.
    • Why you think you would be a good fit for it – how your skills and experience are relevant.
    • Why you want to work for the organisation – refer to their purpose / values / vision or whatever resonates with you.
    • Why they should invite you to interview. Yes, actually ask close your letter by asking for an interview.

Tip: If you believe it is appropriate to include a covering letter, but you have to upload your CV through a portal and there isn’t a second space to upload a letter, you can paste your letter ahead of your CV and save it as one document.

For more about how to write your CV you can read this blog post.

Assuming your awesome letter and CV lead to an interview – head over to this blog for a guide on how to nail it at interview:

If you would like coaching support with your job search, do drop me an e mail to ellie@ellierichpoole.com

Photo by Jopwell from Pexels
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