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Ask a recruiter: Should I provide a covering letter to support my job application?

Continuing from our ‘Ask a recruiter’ series, where we share questions we receive about interviews, CVs, the application process, and more, we’ve got a new question to share from a client. (If you missed our last ‘Ask a recruiter’ blog, have a read of “Ask a recruiter: What about flexible working?“)

An accountancy client based in Sussex asks: “Should candidates provide a covering letter to support their job application?”

I was recently asked by a client whether it was the norm for candidates not to write a cover letter when applying for a job. They had recently advertised a six-figure Finance Director vacancy and were shocked that none of those who responded had taken the time to provide a cover letter to support their application.

So when it comes to composing a cover letter or tailoring a CV to each application, it may be surprising to realise that very little attention is given at this important, if not critical, stage of the recruitment process. Of course, if the vacancy is handled by a reputable recruiter then you’d hope that guidance would be on hand to make an application stand out by highlighting specific skills and experience. But, if a client is advertising themselves directly, then it appears that in most cases very little attention is given to a cover letter and I’m afraid to say there really is no excuse! Of course, this isn’t just limited to senior finance but most likely to every sector and at every level.

So, stand out from the crowd:

  • A cover letter shouldn’t be War and Peace; be impactful, and concise, and find the balance of showcasing your experience and personality
  • Acknowledge the role/organisation you’re applying for demonstrating your interest in the opportunity; a one size fits all approach to a cover letter won’t suffice
  • Highlight relevant recent achievements or successes that will support your application but leave the detail to the CV; the two documents should complement each other
  • Give your reasons as to why this opportunity appeals to you; this is your first opportunity to sell yourself
  • Ensure you have the experience, skills, and qualifications that are being asked for; if you don’t, then take this opportunity to give your reasons as to why you feel you should be considered
  • Check your grammar and spelling; leave nothing to chance

To cover letter or not to cover letter? In my opinion, it’s an emphatic YES from me!

David Waddell is Managing Director at Harvey John.

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