I recently received the following message to accompany a submitted CV. Please note that this is the full cover letter, he got straight to the point without an introduction.
Can you please give me an interview rather than letting me embellish myself in written form as i am an engineer not an architect. I have written many cover letters before, and they have yet to do me any good.
My immediate response was that this deserved to go straight in the bin, but I read it again, out of curiosity and bemusement. Did the candidate seriously think that this approach would win him an interview? And is it any wonder that his cover letters have never done him any good?
I made the assumption that this was not his usual form of cover letter and that this was his way of letting off of steam, perhaps in response to receiving yet another rejection ten minutes earlier?
The irony was that he’d picked the wrong time to vent his spleen because his CV showed that he had relevant qualifications and experience for this particular role. This exasperated cover letter had ruined his prospects of an interview. Aside from the disrespectful tone, our client had been looking for excellent report writing skills – a skill that the candidate may have possessed, but had given the recruiter no choice but to reject (lower case to start a sentence and for personal pronoun).
So, that’s how not to do it, but what is the point of a cover letter if all your skills and experience are detailed on your CV?
Your CV only does half the job – the cover letter gets you the interview
Demonstrate your interest – Your CV shows you have an ideal match for the role, or at least relevant qualifications and experience, but the recruiter will want to know that you want their job. Therefore, be specific and refer directly to the role in your letter. ‘I would like to apply for the post of (insert job title)’ rather than ‘I believe my skills make me an ideal candidate for this role.’
Show that you have read the advert – In addition to the above, use the cover letter to make reference to something specifically mentioned in the advert. For instance, we recently ran a role where the client stated they were looking for someone to ‘share the team’s love of words and puzzles’. Less than 10% of applications referred to this.
Highlight your highlights – Pick out a couple of brief career highlights that match exactly what the advert/recruiter is asking for. However…
Do not repeat what is on your CV – The cover letter works alongside, and in addition to, the CV. There is no point in copying and pasting chunks of text that the recruiter will read on your CV.
Be succinct – We had an application today that would have given Tolstoy a run for his money. There are few jobs where a 2000 word cover letter is better than three or four concise paragraphs.
Write proper – The cover letter is your chance to impress someone who has never met you. And not just anyone, it’s your future employer. Ask yourself if he or she is more likely to be impressed by u instead of you, i instead of I, with spelling unchecked (or Americanised – ‘organise’ not ‘organize’ please – despite what your spell checker says) and poor grammar, i.e. something that resembles a chav’s text message, or, a personal, well-constructed, well-argued case from their ideal new employee?