Why you really should write a cover letter for your next job application

Sometimes, applicants can get a little confused about cover letters and profile summaries on a CV and if there’s really a need for both.

Many people can be guilty of spending time polishing the profile statement on a CV while overlooking cover letters, especially as there is evidence that many large companies who use Applicant Tracking System software don’t read them.

However, I think cover letters are  an excellent opportunity to make an early positive impact on your recruiter/hiring manager. This is especially important given the challenging marketplace post-pandemic, and when you are applying to smaller companies who do read every cover letter.

Covers letters allow you to highlight the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience that make you an attractive candidate and add even more impact to your glowing CV. They are the ‘why’ behind the CV that illustrates why you are applying for the role and can be really important if you are changing career, changing industry/type of company or looking take a lower-level role as this helps the reader understand your motivations for applying before you are instantly dismissed as being overqualified.

But for cover letters to have a positive impact they have to be good quality and should illustrate how you match what the company is looking for and how the organisation is a good fit for your expectations as an employee.

So, what are the other benefits of a good quality and tailored covering letter?

It’s personal

One of the biggest advantages for the smaller companies who do read your letter is explaining why you are particularly interested in working with them. It’s a great opportunity to let them know what has attracted you to their organisation, be that their reputation, their culture, their products or their mission/values. It’s a chance to show your enthusiasm for joining their business, which makes it feel like a much more personal application and demonstrates the effort you have made and how much you want the role.

Helps you stand out from the crowd

Writing a cover letter is your opportunity to highlight why you’re good match for the job role and company. It can help you to position your experience, knowledge and skills. Use specific examples to explain how your skills match what they are looking for and how appointing you could enhance their team. Convince them why you’re a suitable candidate by summarising your unique selling points and demonstrate your passion and a sprinkle of your personality.

Positions a career change positively

A cover letter is beneficial if you’re changing careers. You can tell your story in a way that isn’t always apparent when presented in a CV. Maybe you have some gaps in your CV that you want to explain or maybe your experience is varied and diverse so may raise questions.

Likewise, if you’re retiring or want to take a step back, reduce hours, or change your level of responsibility, explaining your reasoning in a cover letter can avoid confusion about why you’re applying for a role which, on the surface, may not seem suitable. Employers can wrongly assume you won’t stay at their organisation long if they perceive this transition as a sideways or downwards move. Linking your desired outcomes to the role you’re applying for may save you from being put in the “overqualified” or unsuitable pile.

Supports speculative applications

Cover letters can be a good way to support speculative applications where you are writing to find out about any suitable opportunities with your dream organisation in a way it would be difficult to in your CV. It enables you to show your research on the specific company and the type of role you could add value in and can be a great way of introducing yourself to a prospective employer.

Covering letters vs personal statements

It’s important to mention that there can be a bit of an overlap between cover letters and personal statements. Sometimes if you are applying online through a portal or form you may be asked to add a personal statement. A personal statement is often very similar to a cover letter, asking you to outline your suitability for the role and reasons for applying. Sometimes it may ask you to specifically reference how you meet specific competencies for the role.  This is more prevalent in public sector, charity and not for profit organisations but it is something to be aware of as they can be a little different.

A good cover letter should complement your CV but not duplicate it. My advice is to keep them to one page of A4 using between three and five short paragraphs. If you are sending the cover letter electronically you can copy into the main body of the email or into the text box in an application.

A bad cover letter can affect your jobs prospects and affect your professional reputation. If you don’t have something specific to say about yourself or why you want to join the company and it’s a bit company you could be okay without one. Conversely, a well-written letter aligned to your CV establishing how you meet a prospective employer’s requirements could hook in your audience to make them want to find out more about you.

For help with job searches and preparation, including my support service to draft a perfect cover letter, give me a call on 07765 894040 to find out more.

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