Unless you’re instructed otherwise, always send a cover letter with your CV.
Even if a recruiter doesn’t even read it (having been burnt out after thousands of ‘blah blah blah’ cover letters), they’ll notice if it’s missing. Your CV now has far less chance of even being read, let alone being taken seriously.
Cover letters serve as both your introduction and pitch – it makes the connection between the advertised position and your skills, attributes and experiences. Every cover letter must succinctly answer:
1. Why do you want the job?
2. Why should the organisation want you?
Letter’s of Note featured an excellent example of an effective cover letter – written by six year old.
Having heard that the director of the National Railway Museum in York, Andrew Scott, was soon to retire after 15 years at the helm, Sam Pointon sent the following letter to the museum in an attempt to fill Scott’s shoes.
Dear Mr. Tucker
Application for director
I am writing to apply to be the new Director of the National Railway Museum. I am only 6 but I think I can do this job.
I have an electrick train track. I am good on my train track. I can control 2 trains at once.
I have been on lots of trains including Eurostar and some trains in France. I have visited the museum before. I loved watching the trains go round on the turntable.
On the other side is a picture of me.
Hopefully I can come and meet you for an interview.
While Sam missed out on the position, his endearing cover letter earned him his dream job of the museum’s Director of Fun – a position he still holds to this day.
6 cover letter insights we can learn from Sam:
1. Concise – Sam doesn’t waffle. A cover letter should be three to four paragraphs. Use your words wisely; make each one count.
2. Tailored – Don’t use a template. Recruiters can smell these a mile away. Sam tailored his letter for the organisation and position. A tailored cover letter, showing evidence that you’ve researched the organisation and position, is more than basic manners. It shows that you’re serious about the job, and a good demonstration of your work ethic. Of course, find out who will be reading your letter. Do some research, even if it means calling up the organisation itself. It makes a big difference.
3. Why you? – After explaining why you want the job, make the connection between the position and your attributes, skills, and experiences. Carefully pick your top three reasons why you are an ideal candidate and elaborate briefly.
4. Make an impression – Remember, a recruiter may scan hundreds of cover letters a day. Is yours ‘just another cover letter’, or does it stand out? Your aim is to make the recruiter pay attention. Don’t rely on stunts – measured enthusiasm is all you need. And it almost goes without saying that even a great cover letter will make a poor impression if it contains spelling and grammar mistakes. Proof read it. Again. And again.
5. Tone it down – no one likes an arrogant applicant. Don’t tell the reader that you’re an ideal candidate. Confidently make your case, and let them decide where you stand. Sam didn’t say, “I can do this job,” but “I think I can do this job.” While I’m not advocating such language, the tone is appropriate.
6. Sign 0ff strong – thank the reader for his consideration, ask for the opportunity to discuss the role further (ie, an interview).
Your cover letter is your application’s handshake. Make it count.