With studies suggesting that 60% of recruiters fail to even read cover letters when filtering applications, some may argue that job seekers could be wasting their time meticulously crafting tailored cover letters for popular vacant roles.

However, according to recruitment expert Jeff Laureu “there are still a significant amount of employers who put a very high emphasis on the cover letter” and although recruiters may not place as much emphasis on cover letters as before, not submitting one could be highly detrimental to your application.  

When do you need a cover letter?

The best advice is to always include a cover letter, whether you are asked for it or not. If you are emailing your application include the cover letter as your email, but also as the first page of your CV. This avoids sending multiple attachments and greatly increases the chance of it being read if it is missed on your email.

How to write a cover letter.

A good cover letter should be short and succinct. You can think of it as an elevator pitch for the specific role in question:

  • Make clear the position you are applying for and where you heard about it.
  • Then get straight to the point and highlight the skills and experience you have that make you an ideal candidate. Ensure you can summarise your skills succinctly rather than just list your previous roles and the duties you carried out.
  • Take the opportunity to mention your career goals, ambitions, and reasons for applying – include some pertinent details about the company from your research at this point.
  • Sign off within a page of A4, or around 300 words, and make every word count!

It is a commonly held belief that recruiters spend no longer than 30 seconds assessing your application and deciding whether to continue exploring your CV so ensuring your cover letter is succinct, shows a bit of personality and addresses key skills which aren’t explicit within your CV is vitally important. 

Common cover letter mistakes.

As discussed earlier, one of the biggest mistakes is not including a cover letter with your application. Although there may be some recruiters who will simply gloss over it, failing to provide a cover letter can indicate to the employer that you lack enthusiasm for the role and in some cases can imply arrogance. 

So when you do sit down to write your cover letter, there are a few things worth trying to avoid if you want to make the best first impression:

  • Avoid obvious openers like “My name is”. Instead, go for bold statements that will hook the recruiter’s interest. Try a quote from a referee or a pitch that reads like an ad - “CIM qualified marketing professional seeks managerial position in [sector]”.
  • Never rehash your CV. Instead, highlight relevant skills and experience quickly.
  • Don't write an essay! This is an elevator pitch and no-one wants to be stuck in a lift with you overnight.
  • If you can’t make your point in a sentence, don’t make it at all. 

There simply is no such thing as a generic covering letter. It must be highly relevant and highly targeted or it will simply miss its mark.  Although you may have a lot to say, you will always need to employ an objective approach to preparing a cover letter and only consider what the recruiter wants or needs to read. Try and focus on what makes your application unique and avoid describing yourself with well-worn clichés or prescribing a generic, ‘one size fits all’ template. You can find out more about how to apply a suitable structure to your next cover letter by downloading our templates here