Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections!

Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections!

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To cover letter or not to cover letter? That is the question…..Or….How not to irritate the recruiter reading it!

Director at Advanced Career Consulting

As some of you know, I used to be a recruiter. These days, I try to get people to wise up about how they approach the job market. So covering letters / emails – how important are they? Well actually, in my opinion, very important but it has to be the right sort of letter. What used to drive me up the wall were the verbose, lengthy letters. A good covering letter should be about 150-200 words long. Some applicants would send in letters that were up to 500 words long! They would be very “waffly”, tend to have lots of subjective statements in them and would not stick to hard facts in relation to the job. They would also often talk at length about experience that the applicant had that was NOT on the CV. This would was very frustrating from my perspective because:

• Why, if a candidate had some interesting experience that was relevant, did they not put it in the CV? In the CV, the experience is within a context the persons career, there is a timeline, and it can be back up with solid examples
• Subjective statements (e.g. I am very organised; great team player; leadership qualities etc) are unsubstantiated without proving it through examples within the CV. It is the same as saying “my car is really fast” without giving the stats of the engine size, make and 0-60mph.
• Recruiters do not have time to read lengthy covering letters and then compare it to the CV to see where things “fit” in.

So what does a covering letter include? Here are a few pointers:
1. Keywords from the advert e.g. if someone is looking for a campaign manager then you include a quick overview of campaign management you do, what sector you are in and how many years’ experience.
2. If you are not a campaign manager but have transferable skills then they need to be included.
3. Are you willing to relocate?
4. Do you have the right to work in the country in question?
5. Then 1 sentence on why you think you would like to do the role.

I personally would not include what salary you are looking for or are on because that could limit your negotiation power later. Just indicate that the salary offered is something of interest. If the salary states “competitive” then do not bring it up. If you are applying direct to the firm (not a recruitment agent) then also express an interest in the company as well as the job. If I received a letter like that I would actually look forward to looking at the CV.

One other thing…If I got a really verbose covering letter, I would be a little suspicious. They were often written by those who had no relevant skills (transferable or otherwise) or experience needed to do the role. If I have been asked to locate a marketing manager with several years’ experience then no matter how “convincing” a covering letter, an applicant who has no marketing experience at all, could not be considered. So, I would also suggest, don’t try too hard to be convincing; it can set off alarm bells. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Let your CV fill in the gaps.

Of course the above is not an exhaustive list but I would love to know what everyone else out there thinks…….

  • Comment (5)
  • July 29, 2012
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  • Linda J C.

    Linda J

    Linda J C.

    Career Coach/Executive Recruiter/Resume Writer - All American Sourcing

    Nice to see it is just as aggravating on your side of the world as it is here, Susanna. I once received a cover letter that read like an advertisement for a sports car. I've read way too many of them that don't tell me anything about what makes them qualified for the job. I have also seen too many cover letters recently that basically demand I completely ignore my client's core requirements and interview them immediately.

    Something I like to see when reading cover letters is the specifics. If I need to find someone with X years in C+ programming, I want to see what the total years of experience is with that programming language. Don't reiterate your resume, but instead give me the grand totals of experience. I am more likely to read over a resume if the cover letter outlines the total time of experience for the core requirements my client is interested in. Read the job post then outline the requirements with the total time of experience you have with each requirement.

  • Susannah M.


    Susannah M.

    Director at Advanced Career Consulting

    Hear hear! A summary of experience and why it is relevant to the role is kind of essential but common sense seems to fly out the window when applicants write them....most people try to hard and "over cook" the thing.

  • Susannah M.


    Susannah M.

    Director at Advanced Career Consulting

    P.S. This comment also made me laugh..

    "I have also seen too many cover letters recently that basically demand I completely ignore my client's core requirements and interview them immediately."

    How to endear yourself to your local neighbourhood recruiter!!

  • Felício C.


    Felício C.

    Financial Manager / Operations Director - [in transition]

    Hello, I am a new comer to this group and I think this discussion is of a really great importance. From an applicant's point of view, we probably do not know what to put in a letter that basically is designed to accompany the CV and that CV is supposed to reflect the applicant's professional experience.
    Nice tips. Thank you!

  • Susan B.


    Susan B.

    Assistant Manager at Family Dollar

    I agree with Felicio. Many times we are not sure exactly what a recruiter would like to glean from a cover letter. There are a million how to's but at least here you are saying what really does not work. I appreciate the input.