Should I have a cover 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 “What about flexible working?“)

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

I was recently asked by a client whether it was normal for candidates to not have a cover letter when applying for a job. They had recently advertised a six-figure Finance Director vacancy. They were shocked that none of the respondents had taken the time to provide a cover letter.

It may be surprising that little attention is given to this important 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. At Harvey John, we will make sure an application stands out by highlighting specific skills and experience. However, if a client is advertising themselves directly, then it appears that in most cases cover letters are ignored. I’m afraid to say there 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 sure to 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 details 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
  • Make sure 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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