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