How To Get Your Cover Letter Read

No one likes Cover Letters

It seems to me, that despite the general consensus that no one actually cares about cover letters, they are still embedded in the recruitment process for a large number of organisations. Looking through vacancies, both on job boards and company websites, it appears that alongside a CV, candidates are almost always required to send in a cover letter to support their application.

But why, when no one cares about them, or really gets anything out of them?

I’ll be honest; the only time I ever attempt to read a cover letter is when I’m trying to determine the communication/language skills of a candidate. When it comes to CV’s many international candidates pay to have theirs written for them (which can be a problem when they can’t explain what’s on there!), meaning it’s difficult to determine the English ability of a candidate, as it’s not actually their handy work. However, on many occasions, even this proves to be a waste of my time as the cover letter is so standardised it may well have been written by someone on the other side of the world.

And therein lies the problem.

Cover letters have become so standardised that there is simply nothing to gain from reading them. Candidates typically send the same cover letter for every role they apply for, and the information within the cover letter is nothing that can’t be easily found within the first few lines of their CV, or LinkedIn profile. This again brings me back to my question about why companies still actually want candidates to send through cover letters- is it because they have always been a part of the recruitment model and people are afraid of change? Maybe.  The truth is, when I speak with hiring managers about why they want cover letters, I never really get an answer- “It’s just a standard requirement of ours and always has been” is the most common response.

So despite the fact that nothing is gained from reading cover letters, no one likes them, and candidates typically make no effort with them, how can you as an applicant really stand out, while still sticking to the vacancy application requirements? One good way, is to actually personalise your cover letter and make it relevant to the person/role you are applying for. The second, is to present it in a way that will stand out. Now, I don’t mean go and hire a graphic designer to make your cover letter look amazing, I’m talking something far simpler. Go down to your local post office, and mail your cover letter in the old fashioned way. Now this approach is best taken if you have already spoken to a hiring manager on the phone, as this type of cover letter (or personalised letter as we like to call it) is a great way to follow up a conversation and really stick in the mind of the decision maker.

By now you may be thinking “who send snail-mail in the age of the email?!” But that’s exactly the point! Sending your cover letter via email, along with the other 50 applicants isn’t really going to get you notice is it? But sending something rare like a letter certainly will. Here’s a handy tip for you – send it in an A4 sized envelope; because who doesn’t open mail that comes in an A4 sized envelope? I still think it’s best to also send your resume through in digital copy as this can make it easier for hiring managers to pass among each other, but reference the fact you have also emailed a digital copy of your CV in your personalised, physical letter.

Traditional cover letters are boring, useless and often overlooked, so why not mix yours up and stand out from the crowd? This approach may seem old-fashioned and out of date, but I can guarantee you will get noticed among a pool of candidates, and that may be the difference between you getting a role and being just another applicant.

For more information on how to write a winning personalised letter, or anything to do with landing your dream role, head over to the Jobzdojo Gumroad Learning Centre.

Eamonn Dunn

920 Recruitment, Auckland