A cover letter is a one page document which accompanies your CV. It will be the first part of your application that the employer will read. It should aim to address the following:
- Be addressed to the business and hiring manager directly
- The job title you are applying for
- An introduction to you and your relevant skills
- Why you are suitable for the role
- How you found out about the role and why it interests you
- A thank you for their time and a request for an interview
Most job seekers either decide not to write a cover letter or don’t take advantage of it. It is probably one of the most underestimated parts of the application process, and one which shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s why you should write a cover letter for your CV.
A unique application will stand out
The CV is quite a formal document and it’s quite hard to add any kind of personality into it. However, a cover letter adds a more personal touch as it can be directly addressed to the hiring manager by name.
Creating a unique application isn’t just about how great your CV could be, it’s also about the entire process – from the personal statement you write to the possible inclusion of a cover letter. If you want to stand out from the rest of your competition and create a positive and memorable impression, then a professionally written cover letter can do just that.
You can explain why you’re suitable
A cover letter gives you the chance to explain why you’re suitable for the role. Although your CV should reveal this, it won’t actually point out exactly what sets you apart from other applicants and also why you’re the perfect fit.
Talk briefly about your background, skills and qualifications and how they perfectly suit the role. You do not need to go into too much detail here as this will be present on your CV. You should try to avoid repeating what your CV says and instead aim to offer a new angle.
The aim of your cover letter is to connect the dots for the employer and make their life easier throughout the process. If they can instantly see why you’re eligible from the first couple of sentences of your cover letter, then you have already grabbed their attention.
You can address any concerns
A cover letter will help you address any concerns you predict the employer may have. For instance, if you were out of work for a lengthy period of time and you suspect the employer may be a little worried, you could briefly explain this in your cover letter. As with any employment gap you should state why you were out of work and close by clarifying that it has had no affect on your ability going forward. You could even say that it has made you more determined to succeed.
This would help you explain a personal health issue, but for other common reasons for employment gaps like taking a break (gap year), raising a family or going back into education, you can easily explain this situation and put the employer’s mind at ease.
Other concerns you may be able to anticipate relate to a lack of skills, qualifications or relevant work experience. If you feel that the employer may read your CV and worry about something that’s missing, you can address this directly in a cover letter. Focus on transferable skills and briefly explain why you are confident it won’t be a problem.
Take communication as a good example. If you are applying for a sales role but have no sales experience, you should look to provide examples of your interaction between customers. Working in a customer service role is not a big step away from sales, because you are providing a service to the customer, albeit without the commission and targets to achieve.
It shows you are making an effort
The addition of a cover letter to your CV is essentially showing the employer that this means a lot to you. The additional effort you’ve made will instantly be recognised by the hiring manager, and anything you can do to get a slight edge over the other candidates is worth it.
The one thing you do have to be careful about is the quality of your cover letter. If after reading our advice you do decide to write one the next time you apply, you must make sure it’s to a high standard. A spelling mistake or grammatical error will instantly put the employer on the back foot and they may decide not to read the rest of your application. It has to make the manager want to read more and draw them positively into your CV, otherwise you would have been better off not writing a cover letter at all!