Cover letters- To bother or not to bother ?…that is the question.

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Rebecca Williams – Talent Acquisition Manager at WWF International


Cover letters- To bother or not to bother ?…that is the question.

This dilemma struck me recently at a meeting of senior HR professionals, all of whom categorically stated that they never read candidate cover letters, but rather go straight to the CV. Shortly following this meeting, I was asked to present at a workshop of qualified job seekers, who were keen to know my opinion on the subject. So, for what it is worth, here goes..

In my humble opinion, a cover letter is essential –even if you run the risk that no one may read it. Personally, I do read cover letters and receiving a CV without a cover letter signals to me that the candidate hasn’t seriously considered the position on offer and has simply randomly banged out a CV to me without any great thought- which may or may not be the case.

Taking the time to convey to your potential future employer, why you want the job and what working for that particular organisation means to you, is both a sign of respect and demonstrates a genuine interest in the company. However, it is true to point out, that the majority of cover letters are, (dare I say it?)..BLAND..eek!. You would be amazed how many motivated, proactive team players there are out there who can work independently.

The cover letters that have really made me sit up and want to read on have grabbed me instantly; either because of the eloquent, well written opening- paragraph, or because they demonstrate the personality and true motivation of the applicant. This is your sales pitch – show your originality, interests and personality as much as you can- although keep it professional. If it gets too wacky then that is slightly scary..

It might seem obvious BUT…the biggest faux pas to avoid is applying for a position with a letter addressed to another company and contact name. Believe me- it happens on a regular basis and is the quickest way to paper recycling. Equally ensure that the spelling and grammar is spot on and be wary of addressing letters with ‘Dear Sirs’ or you may have some angry ladies to contend with.

A cover letter does not need to be an essay- frankly even the most diligent recruiter will switch off after a page or so, but it does need to succinctly give the employer a genuine insight into who they are dealing with. A really convincing cover letter, accompanying a mediocre CV can swing the difference between being invited for interview or not.

So, to conclude briefly- in today’s competitive job market , don’t cut corners by not bothering – it does matter…and might just make the difference.

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