Regardless of whether you are actively in the job market and looking for a new role, it’s likely you have some semblance of a CV ready to go should an opportunity arise. A major hurdle for many however is the thought of having to write a cover letter. Why does this one page of content, of which you are the subject matter expert, cause so much grief?

Do I have to?

Unless the job advert specifically requests a cover letter then the answer is no, you don’t HAVE to write a cover letter. But the question you should be asking yourself is why wouldn’t you write one? A well written cover letter that is tailored to the specific role can be incredibly influential and an opportunity to differentiate yourself in a way that a CV can’t. CVs are typically factual and list your background, skills and expertise, a cover letter however can be more emotive and persuasive and clearly convey why you are the ideal candidate for the role.

Some would argue that the cover letter never makes its way to the actual person who will be making hiring decisions but rather stops with gatekeepers. Maybe it does, but bear in mind that armed with this information the recruiter or HR lead will be able to “sell” your application more effectively.

Based on our experience as professional recruiters, here are some top tips to guide you in writing a cover letter.

Use what you know

Before you start writing your cover letter, gather as much information as you can about both the role and the organisation. This includes reading through the position description and job advert, reviewing the company’s website and any publicly available documentation like strategic plans or annual reports, as well as the information you have gleaned from conversations with the hiring manager/recruiter and others in your wider networks. This will give you a feel for the culture of the organisation which will guide the tone of your cover letter. It will also assist you to construct a compelling story about how you can deliver in the role in line with broader organisational goals.

What’s the problem they are trying to solve?

The point of a cover letter is to convey that you will deliver on what they need in the role. You have likely covered the essential experience and skills they are looking for in your CV so there is no need to rehash your CV, rather it’s an opportunity for you to let the reader know how you will use these attributes to perform in the role and essentially address their need. Make sure you cover these points first up in the cover letter – what problem are they trying to solve by making this hiring decision and how are you the solution they need. This may not be obvious from reading the role vacancy and that’s why a conversation with the hiring manager/recruiter is critical.

Don’t leave any doubt

It’s highly likely that when applying for a role you may not meet all the required skills and experience outlined in the job vacancy. It’s important to have a conversation up front with the hiring manager or recruiter to explain your position and determine whether there is a fit with your career path to date, before taking the time to apply. We’re not talking about an expectation for there to be flex with not having a very specific qualification that is essential for the role, but rather not ticking all the boxes but having the potential to succeed in the role.

In saying that, don’t ignore the obvious. If the employer is asking for 10 years’ experience or sector specific exposure that you don’t have, then tell them how you will still deliver in the role. Also, if there are some inconsistencies in your CV – like career gaps or incomplete qualifications – then touch on these in your cover letter.

Be true to who you are

Inject a bit of enthusiasm and personality into your cover letter to give the reader a glimpse at who you are as a person. What’s your real passion at work, what motivates you to do your very best? Whoever is making hiring decisions is likely very committed to their role and the organisation and is looking for people who can grow to share that same conviction. Demonstrate your energy but don’t go overboard, always be genuine and avoid overt flattery. Just be you. If they don’t feel the connection, then maybe it’s not the right environment for you after all.

Keep it succinct

A good cover letter is a short cover letter – keep it to one page. Think of a cover letter as your elevator pitch, it’s a way to get your foot in the door by providing an insight into how you will meet the employer’s need.

There’s a lot of talk about cover letters being obsolete in modern day recruitment. And maybe that’s true for some sectors and roles. Our advice is that you should really take the time to include one whenever possible. It’s an opportunity for you to share your story and how you are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of the organisation.

Need help?

Decipher Group provides a range of candidate support services that can help you navigate your next career move. Get in touch with us today, we’d love to chat.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and technologies follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

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