For the average recruiter, 50% of CV’s they receive will come with a cover letter and 50% won’t. If the job advert says explicitly, “send a cover letter,” then obviously you need to. As for “job application rules,” there are no written rules to whether you should or shouldn’t send a cover letter with your application.
Personally, I think it’s vital that you send a tailored cover letter with each application that you make. A well-written cover letter is never going to hurt your job application but could be the difference between an interview and not. One point, if you’re sending your CV to a recruiter, I wouldn’t waste your time as they’re not going to read it.
What is a Cover Letter?
For me, your CV is a 20-second interview where I try to understand whether you have the skills, knowledge, and experience for a role that I am recruiting.Your cover letter is, therefore, the few lines that typically gets me excited or puts me off reading your CV.
Will It Improve Your Success Rate?
The honest answer, your Cover Letter probably will not be the deciding factor to whether you’re invited for a job interview. That all said, your cover letter could be the deciding factor to whether the hiring manager reads your CV.
You need to understand; companies receive thousands of CV’s every week. Typically, they work with small recruitment teams and rely heavily on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sort through thousands of job applications based on a selection of keywords.
Your cover letter, therefore, becomes a perfect opportunity to get a selection of relevant keywords into your job application and make sure any ATS programs that the company is using, chooses your CV in one of the first searches the recruiter makes.
Let’s imagine that I was looking for a Sales Manager for one of my clients. I would typically put a couple of job adverts on LinkedIn and a selection of significant job boards within the sales arena.
After leaving the job adverts for two weeks, it would easily be possible that there would be 5,000 applications to the position. If I were to look individually through all 5,000 CV’s for a minute each, it would take me over 75 hours to review every CV. Realistically, this is not possible, and as a result, I would use an ATS program to search for keywords. After switching on my ATS program, I would enter my search based on the following criteria:
- Relevant or Similar Companies – to the company I am recruiting for. I would also search for the sectors, for example, FMCG, Automotive or Healthcare.
- Relevant Job Titles – while trying to remove non-relevant job titles. In this example, I am looking for a sales manager which is a mid-level position. I would search for the exact job titles, “sales manager” or “sales account manager.”
- Relevant Keywords – such as sales efficiency, product portfolio, sales forecast, and sales budgets.
- Education – such as MBA or any other sales course
- Company Information such as their name, mission statement, size, number of employees, turn over or location.
- Any Other Key Information – that has been included within the job description provided by the client.
How Can This Help You?
Once you understand how a recruiter uses an Applicant Tracking System to sort through the massive number of CV’s, you can begin to understand how you can use a Cover Letter to your advantage.
Your CV will contain job titles, companies that you have worked for and a selection of keywords, however its unlikely to include the sectors that you have worked in, all the relevant keywords that are applicable to you and any company information for the company that you’re applying to.
Your Cover letter could be the perfect place to put all this information to make sure your resume passes the ATS and is selected for a recruiter to review.
How Can A Cover Letter Work Against You?
Realistically there’re only three ways a cover letter can work against you.If you’re told to only to apply with your “CV” to a job advert. Anyone who has sent both their CV and Cover Letter will more than likely not be included in a short-list. Personally, I would use my ATS program to search for the word “Cover Letter” which would take out any applications with a cover letter.
If you’re only going to repeat what’s already on your CV on your cover letter, there’s a good chance important information could be missed. If it were me, I would have a look at your CV but would scan-read it very quickly and move on. If there is something important on your CV that could separate you out from the competition, most likely I will miss this.
I would not send your Cover Letter if you’re sending your CV to an external recruiter as it will not be read. I have rarely, very rarely looked at a candidate’s Cover Letter as its more interesting for me to look at your CV and then to decide if you’re a relevant candidate.If you’re planning on sending your Cover letter, make sure that you tailor it for each application that you make. A generic cover letter that starts with the title, “Too Whom it May Concern,” is straightforward to spot and honestly does you no favors.