Should I Send a Cover Letter?

Covering Letter - Typwriter

Most job listings ask you to upload a covering letter and CV.  Do you need to do this, or is the CV enough?

We recommend that you provide a covering letter with your CV when you apply for a job.  While some recruiters say they don’t read letters, others consider them a key component of the shortlisting process.  Unless you are sure the recruiter is not interested in a letter, provide one.

A covering letter is intended to demonstrate how you meet the specific job requirements listed in the advertisement or job description. This is not the time to ramble on about your thirty-year career and your hopes and dreams for the future (unless they ask for that information).  Rather, it is an opportunity for you to show how you are a perfect fit for the job they are recruiting for.

Restrict the letter to one page.  Recruiters are not generally interested in reading long screeds of text.  Make is short and snappy, and relevant.  Occasionally you may be asked to writer a longer letter, for example showing how you meet a range of criteria, in which case the recruiter has signposted that they will probably read the letter.

Try to get a name and address for the top of the letter, even if you are emailing it.  Search the company’s website for this information if it’s not in the advertisement.  If you can’t find it there, do a wider internet search which might bring up the information elsewhere.

If you manage to get a name, the letter should be signed of ‘Yours sincerely’.  If you are unable to get a name you should start the letter Dear Sir/Madam or To whom it may concern, and sign off the letter ‘Yours faithfully’.

Sometimes the recruiter will ask you to provide specific information in the letter.  Often this will be ‘selection criteria’, and you should ensure that you refer to each criterion and demonstrate how you meet it.  You can use specific examples to help showcase your expertise and experience.

If they don’t ask for ‘selection criteria’ make sure that you demonstrate how you meet the criteria for the role outlined in the advertisement or job description.  You can use short bullet points to do this.

You can also include a short paragraph or sentence saying why you like the company.  Review their website and identify positive features that appeal to you, e.g. their social values, environmental policies or drive for high quality.  It shows that you have made an effort to research them and find out more about the company.

Finally, make sure that you have answered any questions asked.  Failure to follow these instructions reduces the likelihood of you being invited for interview.

For help on writing cover letters, talk to one of our writers or use our contact form.