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Covering letters are becoming extinct. Not because recruiters and hiring managers are not requesting them as part of the application process but because job seekers just aren’t providing them anymore. Receiving a covering letter as part of a job application is a rarity in todays world of recruitment. And if you are one of those job seekers that’s not bothering to prepare and submit a covering letter you are missing a massive opportunity.
Why is it that job seekers aren’t bothering to take the time, make the effort and utilise this opportunity to strengthen their application? This is something I think about a lot, probably really too much (confessions of a recruiter!) particularly when I am short listing for a role. I’ll be looking at a resume and trying to put together the pieces; why is this person applying, what’s their story, why do they think they are a good fit for the role? Which leads to me to think, if only you had provided a covering letter and told your story………………….
Technology has played a big role in the extinction of the covering letter. Technology has made us lazy job seekers. I can now jump on to an online job board, think seek.com or Indeed, as they are a couple of the most popular. I can set up a profile, upload my resume and get notified about jobs that match a list of criteria that I set. Then when a job matching my criteria is posted, I get a notification. The job sounds ok so I hit the apply now button. I don’t have to even really think about the job, I’ll just throw may hat in the ring and see if I get a call. My resume is sent off to the recruiter and I go back to doing whatever I was in the middle of doing. That’s how easy it is to apply for a job online now.
Hence the demise of the covering letter. I could always write a generic covering letter; not bothering to address it personally, not bothering to reference the specific job I am applying for and not bothering to make it relevant to the job I am applying for. I could upload my generic covering letter to my online profile and send that when I hit apply now so that my generic covering letter and resume are sent off. Let’s face it though, a generic resume is about as useful to a recruiter or hiring manager as no covering letter at all.
On the flip side, I think recruiters and hiring managers have a lot to answer for and why should we expect you to write a covering letter if we can’t even do you the courtesy of acknowledging your application let alone let you know that you have been unsuccessful and provide you with feedback on why. Not communicating with job seekers about their application and letting them know they have been unsuccessful is something that really irks me. If you expect job seekers to jump through hoops to apply you need to be prepared to jump through hoops and provide feedback. So is it any wonder job seekers don’t bother spending the time and effort writing a covering letter when we have let them down time and time again?
If you are a job seeker and you really do want the job, my biggest piece of advice is to write a cover letter. If you write that covering letter well, it will be worth your time and effort. A great covering letter, in conjunction with a great resume, will make a big difference in getting to the next stage of the recruitment process; the interview.
Why you ask? What’s the real value of a covering letter?
- It’s an opportunity to reinforce information and detail experience, skills and qualifications that you have specific to a particular role.
- It allows you to tell your story. Share with the reader your why. Why are you applying, why this role, why this organisation, why you. Take the question marks off the table, help the reader understand where you are coming from.
- It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your written communication skills. Don’t just state you have great written communications skills – demonstrate them with an awesome covering letter.
- If a covering letter is requested as part of the application process and you submit a covering letter it shows you can follow instructions. I speak to many hiring managers who say if a job seeker can’t follow instructions on how to apply (when they supposedly really want the job) how will they follow instructions in the job (when they have the job and they don’t have to try and impress anymore).
- Submitting a covering letter, a personalised covering letter specific to the job you are applying for, shows you are genuinely interested in the job. It shows that you care enough to take the time and make the effort to make a winning first impression. It will put you up above the candidates that have not bothered.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd with your next job application, writing a covering letter is the way to go.
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Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.