CV Tips - A Cover Letter – To Write Or Not To Write?
Does anyone read cover letters anymore? Are cover letters even necessary at all, or are they outdated?
In a 2020 survey of 236 hiring managers and recruiters, ResumeGo found that 87% of respondents read cover letters.
Hiring professionals read cover letters:
For all qualified applicants
For any candidates they’re considering moving to the next step of the hiring process
For any candidates who are on the border of being moved forward
For any candidates whose resumes raised questions for them
Traditionally, the cover letter was the cover page for your CV (hence the name), so its purpose was to convince the reader to look at your CV.
Now, your CV usually (though not always) gets looked at first, and your cover letter is there to further persuade the reader to move you to the next round in the hiring process. So while cover letters are serving a different purpose now, they’re still being read and considered.
In its 2020 Recruiter Nation Report, based on a survey of 806 recruiters conducted by Zogby Analytics, Jobvite found that just 27% of recruiters consider cover letters when evaluating a job application.
And it makes sense. Often a recruiter’s primary job is to find and screen candidates for open positions, meaning they might be looking at hundreds of applications a day for a range of jobs. However, recruiters are usually not the only person seeing an application before a final hiring decision is made. They’re just the first step.
So a recruiter not reading your cover letter doesn’t mean that someone else–like the hiring manager or a future member of your team—won’t. For example, tech recruiter and Muse career coach Steven Davis admits that he doesn’t read every cover letter as a recruiter, but as a coach, he still encourages his clients to “write a concise, enthusiastic cover letter” because he believes they’re valuable pieces of a job application that can help you land a later-round interview.
Do Cover Letters Help You Get a Job?
Cover letters help make the case for you as an applicant and can provide valuable information to recruiters and hiring managers, not only through their content but just through the fact that you took the time to write one at all.
In ResumeGo’s survey of recruiters and hiring managers, 65% of respondents said they are “materially influenced” by cover letters in their hiring decisions.
ResumeGo also conducted a field experiment, submitting fake applications to over 7,000 job postings with either no cover letter (leaving the field blank or writing in “N/A” when needed), a generic cover letter, or a tailored cover letter that gave details on how the applicant matched the company culture and job description. After 30 days, applications with tailored cover letters were 53% more likely to have gotten an interview callback than applications with no cover letter, and even generic cover letters were 17% better than no cover letter at all. Meaning, yes: Cover letters do still matter and they can help you get to the next round in the hiring process.
When Do You Absolutely Need a Cover Letter?
There are some situations where you should definitely include a cover letter or you’ll greatly increase the risk of being rejected when you otherwise might’ve had a chance.
Many job applications require a cover letter and in those cases, if you want a real shot, you have to write one whether you want to or not.
But job seekers don’t always get a giant flashing neon sign declaring that a cover letter is crucial for a particular position. In some cases, the cue that a cover letter is extra important will come from your side. If you have any special situations surrounding your candidacy or there’s anything on your resume or application that needs additional context to be understood, writing a cover letter is really in your best interest. If there’s something on (or not on) your resume that might be a red flag to people reading, your cover letter can keep your application out of the rejection pile.
According to the experts, some special situations that can be explained by a cover letter include:
Career transitions: If this is going to be your first job in a new of type role or a different industry, or if you’ve followed a non-linear career path, a cover letter can explain why you want this job and how your past experiences have prepared you for it. It’s also an opportunity to highlight how your transferable skills will help you in your next job.
Personal connections to a company or job referrals: If someone in your network referred you to a job or you have another connection to the company, this goes in your cover letter, not on your resume
Here are five reasons to write a cover letter anyway:
- Taking the Time to Write a Cover Letter Shows You Care About This Position
Submitting a cover letter even when it’s optional shows employers that you cared enough about their job that you took an extra step to craft something
- You Can Inject Some Life and Personality Into Your Application
When employers are making a hire, they’re definitely reading your resume to evaluate your skills and experiences. But they’re also looking for someone they’ll enjoy spending a significant portion of their time around
showing off your personality or giving some insight into your background in a cover letter is a way to differentiate yourself from the sea of applicants,
- You Can Tell Employers Why You’re the Perfect Fit for the Job (and Company)
Have you ever come across an open job and thought, “Wow, this is exactly what I should be doing!“? You’ll definitely want to convey that to the employer. But even if you tailor your resume for each application—which you can and should do—it doesn’t tell the person reading it why you decided to apply and why you’re the right hire. A cover letter can. How? By directly connecting your skills, experience, passions, and goals to the job in question and providing additional details about your most relevant qualifications.
- You Shouldn’t Skip an Opportunity to Show Off Your Skills
Getting your hard skills on a resume is relatively straightforward, but talking about your soft skills can be, well...hard.
Your cover letter is also a space where you can demonstrate your skills, not just talk about them.
The way you write your cover letter can also demonstrate less obvious soft skills like creativity, persuasion, organization, or attention to detail,
- You Can Clear Up Any Questions About Your Resume
Cover letters are the ideal spot to give some needed context about any unique circumstances surrounding your job search. If there’s something on your resume or application that you’re worried about or that might leave whoever reads it with questions, including an optional cover letter gives you a chance to explain and could get you to the next round when your resume alone would have been rejected.
What to Write in a Cover Letter.
What doesn't work is sending a generic letter. Put the effort in to tailor your letter specifically to the needs of the job.
Another mistake to avoid is losing your reader in your opening sentence.
Never begin your letter with the overused standard – I'm applying for the ad I saw online.
This fails to address the employer's needs and the skills you bring to the job. Another overused starting line is telling the company you think they are great and how much you want to work for them.
Here’s what you should do:
First, analyse the job and employer and determine the essential skills the company is looking for. Next, address how you will meet the employer's needs.
You begin your letter with a strong opening sentence emphasising the major selling points and skills you would bring to the job.
The secret lies merely in addressing their needs right up front. After all, these are the necessary skills and experience they are seeking.
This first paragraph is what they will read, so it needs to have your top selling points in it. You must demonstrate "proof" that you can perform the duties desired. To develop this proof, outline the critical things that the employer wants.
Just underline the significant items from the job spec.
The next step is to ask yourself: What were the RESULTS of my efforts on previous jobs, projects, or tasks that I've undertaken? That is the key to compose your letter. Just highlight the duties and skills needed by referencing your abilities to perform them plus offer any known results from your past efforts as proof that you CAN do the job.
Writing a cover letter is similar to answering many interview questions - it gives you the chance to provide examples of your skills and experience and show how they match what the employer needs.
Use a template for your cover letter, but make it different for each job you apply for.
In general, for cover letters, don’t write more than a page, probably about half a page (around 250 words) or “the shorter the better.” As with interview questions, don’t ramble, get your message across efficiently.
And spell check it! Use www.grammarly.com – it’s free.
You can definitely get a job without a cover letter. But ask yourself this: Why would you miss out on the chance to make your application even stronger?
https://www.themuse.com/advice/do-i-need-cover-letter, https://www.themuse.com/advice/cover-letter-optional Regina Borsellino
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