Covering Letters: Worth the paper they are written on?

Covering Letters: Worth the paper they are written on?

Covering letters.  We receive applications daily from keen job seekers across sustainability, cleantech and town planning, hoping to differentiate themselves in their job search.  Many choose to attach a covering letter to their application but is the time spent putting a covering letter together really well spent or could you be managing your time better?

Our view is it probably depends.  Have a look around the internet and you will quickly discover that hiring managers and recruiters typically spend a very short time reviewing CV’s – sometimes as little as six seconds!  It doesn’t take long to decide whether someone might meet the requirements of a particular job.  Taking this into account, would a said hiring manager and/or recruiter take the time to review your covering letter? Again it depends on the context but ultimately you will be judged by the quality of your CV and your suitability for the role and not by stating how much you would like to work “for an esteemed organisation.”

Covering letters do have their place.  As a specialist recruiter operating within niche markets, we do often request candidates to put together a covering letter of sorts.  Often in the dialogue we have with candidates, much of the value they can add to a particular role or company is overlooked in a standard CV – its often hard to get everything onto a couple of pages so providing supplementary information can be useful. 

We also have experience of covering letters differentiating applicants in a hiring process – they can demonstrate you have understood the role, meet the requirements and are keen.  All positives.  However if the CV isn’t up to scratch and suitable or if the covering letter is badly written or, even worse clearly written for someone else – the result is probably leaning towards you getting a response as simple as a “No”.  Worse still, you might not hear anything at all.

So what should effective covering letters look like and when should you use them?

Make them punchy and achievement/competency based

Don’t be too wordy.  What specific examples can you cite from your experience that match what a hiring manager is looking for? For instance, if it’s a sales role, what % of target have you delivered?

Who are your target audience and what are they looking for?   

You need to understand what a hiring manager is looking for.  This might be obvious in a job spec but what if your enquiry is speculative? You’ll then need to frame up your skill set and communicate that effectively.

Get the message across in the first (short) paragraph!

If a hiring manager only has six seconds to read you covering letter/email, make sure that those six seconds are reading something worthwhile. 

Do you research!

Who are you writing to? Dear Mr or Mrs Recruitment Manager won’t cut it when you are writing an email to John.  John’s a person who has spent quite a few years getting use to his name John and isn’t thinking about wearing dresses anytime soon!

Make your contact details obvious.

Sounds simple but if someone likes you they might want to get in touch with you.  If you are looking for work in sustainability, cleantech, town planning or smart cities, why don’t you contact us on 020 7859 4246? Get my point?  I’ve also double checked that number and it is correct…

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