Nobody applies for a job by post these days, so is the presence of a cover “letter” needed if we aren’t actually sending a letter? Pat Moore of The CV & Interview Advisors discusses this hot topic.
Is it a letter at all?
First it is necessary to establish the purpose of a cover letter and in doing so it soon becomes obvious that it isn’t a letter at all and, in my humble opinion, should be renamed. Anyway, putting old fashioned recruitment nomenclature to one side for a moment, it is very often the case that a supporting statement in addition to a CV or resume is not only a very good idea, but could make the difference between securing an interview or not.
Cover letters (or what we will now call “supporting statements”) are extremely important if you’re serious about getting a specific job. If you take the time to write and submit a thoughtful supporting statement, it improves your chance of hearing back from that employer.
The limitations of a CV / resume
A well-crafted statement supports your CV, which by itself may lack some life or colour. By necessity, a CV is a concise, factual review of your background, skills, achievements, and qualifications. Your supporting statement, on the other hand, explains why you are applying for their job and why you feel you are the right candidate, and if it gives a potential employer a preview of your personality so much the better. People buy into people after all.
You supporting statement could, for instance, point the reader in the direction of your most relevant accomplishments giving you the chance to apply them specifically to their role. You simply can’t do that with your CV alone. Or you can take examples from your work experience section, and explain how that experience makes you an outstanding candidate.
A well-written supporting statement can address any concerns that you know employers are going to have. Perhaps your early career has a lot of job moves, or you are applying for a job in a different location. It gives you a chance to explain before they read the CV and make a premature judgement call.
Just starting out?
Supporting statements are particularly important for applicants towards the beginning of their careers. If you’re a recent school-leaver or graduate and your most impressive work experience is relevant coursework and your hardest job was dealing with rowdy customers in a late-night bar, then submitting a supporting statement is a good way to assure the employer you have the right attitude.
People understand that all careers start somewhere, and your supporting statement is an opportunity to highlight your passion for a particular career or industry, and show how even without experience, you’re ready to learn and grow quickly in the role.
Strutt your stuff
Moreover, written communication is still a highly valued skill, so a nicely worded, concise, and clear supporting statement can only enhance your application. You can show you are a good communicator who can get your ideas across in a way that’s relevant and to the point.
So, even if the job description says “cover letter optional”, write one and make sure you do so with the purpose of guiding the reader towards the relevant and important aspects of your CV. Use the supporting statement to provide evidence that you have a certain skill by giving a specific example with tangible evidence that you succeeded in that task. You could even write evidence-based case studies to provide powerful evidence that you are a suitable candidate for the role and taking this a stage further to explain how you can provide return on investment for the employer.