The way we apply for roles in 2019 is a lot different than the days we’d sit at breakfast circling job opportunities in the local newspaper. (If you don’t remember those days, I’m probably showing my age a bit here!)
Either way, the recruitment landscape is evolving at a rapid speed, with candidates often asking me whether a cover letter is actually still needed, or indeed relevant, when applying for a job today.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Why writing a cover letter is important?
To demonstrate the importance of cover letters, a good place to start is with a few statistics – courtesy of Career Bureau.
According to their research, 40% of employers say that the cover letter is more important than the CV itself, while 43% of them think that it’s just as important.
That’s almost half of the employers included in the survey stating the importance of a cover letter. And those who don’t necessarily agree with the statement might still agree that candidates need to at least submit a cover letter.
The bottom line is if you want to make a real impression or you’re applying for a permanent position, there’s no doubt that a cover letter can be the difference between landing a role and not.
While writing a letter may seem like a dated concept, what it does do is give you an opportunity to express any personal requirements and tell an employer or recruiter exactly why you’re the best fit for the role. Both of which you can’t do with just a CV.
For example, if you’re looking to relocate to a new part of the country, you can explain your reasoning behind this and stop a recruiter or employer from discarding your application on the basis of your current location.
Similarly, gaps in employment can raise a few eyebrows too. However, with a cover letter, you can give a reason why you took some time off work and strengthen your application as a whole.
When is a cover letter not required?
For the most part, we’d always recommend that a candidate takes the time to write and submit a cover letter. However, there are certain times or jobs which don’t necessarily warrant one. For instance, if you haven’t got the time to write a well-crafted cover letter, there’s an argument to suggest that no letter is almost better than a poorly written one.
Writing is a perfect excuse to sample your writing and communication ability, but if you can’t do a good job at that, it might have a negative impact on the way the employer perceives you as an applicant.
There are also some cases where an employer doesn’t require or ask for a cover letter. This is usually the case with temporary or general positions which pay by the hour. If this applies to you, avoid submitting a cover letter as it may annoy an employer rather than impress them.
Another scenario where a cover letter isn’t required is if there isn’t a place to submit one when applying online. If they haven’t given you the option to include one, I wouldn’t sweat about it.
Your basic checklist to cover letter success
To write a successful cover letter, it’s essential that you cover the basics. Here are a few top tips to get you started:
- Keep it short – while an employer wants to hear more about you and your suitability for a role, they don’t have the time or patience to sit through an equivalent to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. As a rule of thumb, try not to exceed five paragraphs or one page.
- Personalise your cover letter – including information and points that are relevant to the industry and the company can earn you major brownie points.
- Don’t repeat your CV – a cover letter is your chance to talk about yourself in greater depth. So, don’t waste the opportunity by using the same information as your CV.
- Back up your claims – with 38% of Brits admitting to lying on their CV, a cover letter allows you to support your experience. Try including testimonials, sales statistics and even an online portfolio link.
- Use your own voice – just because a cover letter is viewed as quite a formal document, it doesn’t mean that you need to sound like an editor at the Times! Be creative and give employers an incline into how you communicate on a daily basis.
- Include keywords – just like a CV, a lot of recruiters and employers will only have time to skim read applications. As a result, a lot of them will use keyboard shortcuts to find certain industry-related keywords which might make a certain candidate more applicable for a role. So you should make sure you add in any you think are important!
- Proofread – it’s surprising how many candidates forget or can’t be bothered to proofread their cover letters. Why waste all of the time writing it, only to send a letter riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? If English isn’t your forte, use free programmes like Grammarly to do the hard work for you.
You can find more of these top tips in our previous blog: ‘How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter: 10 Tips’.
Hopefully, you found this information useful and you can start to establish whether a cover letter is required or not.
All-in-all, if you’re ever unsure, just write and submit one to be on the safe side. For most employers, it’ll show that you’re willing to go the extra mile and may just be the difference between job success and failure.
In the meantime, if you feel like you need some extra help putting a tip-top cover letter together, we have some wonderful other resources you might find helpful:
- 10 Cover Letter Writing Tips
- How to Write a Cover Letter
- 7 Tips to Creating an Outstanding Cover Letter (Guest Post)
Or if you fancy receiving more weekly candidate tips like this, you can always subscribe to our free blog here.