Is your cover letter being read?
Many applicants assume recruiters read resumes and cover letters to find what skills and experiences the applicant can bring to a vacancy. However, this is not always the case.
A recruiter could receive hundreds of applications for just one role. To process all of these applications, the recruiter will skim read each CV, comparing it against the selection criteria and looking for reasons to reject it. After all, it's far easier to eliminate a candidate than it is to shortlist them.
This is where cover letters come in.
The cover letter is a sales pitch that highlights why a candidate should be shortlisted for further consideration. As stated in the Harvard Business Review, "It’s your best chance of getting the attention of the HR person or hiring manager and an important opportunity to distinguish yourself from everyone else." And in today's competitive job market, standing out from other candidates is crucial if you want to be the one to land the job.
What should your cover letter look like?
I have read thousands of cover letters during my career and most fail to impress. I recently discussed this with a seasoned HR Manager for an international shipping firm and she said “I struggle to read them”. When I asked her why, she said, “Because they typically contain unimportant information - not the information I am looking for.”
When it comes to what you should include in your cover letter, it should mirror the selection criteria of the role. As stated in an article by myfuture, Australia's National Career Information Service "Address the key skills or criteria listed in the job advertisement. If you are approaching an employer directly and there is no job advertisement, think logically about the skills required for the role."
However, before you address what makes you suitable for a role, you need to address what may make you unsuitable. If you are lacking any of the required skills or experience, you can't hide it. Instead, acknowledge these shortcomings, and go on to describe any transferable skills or related experience that make up for it. This is what recruiters are looking for!
Once you have addressed your suitability, show your motivation and enthusiasm for the role and the company. As myfuture states, you should make some positive comments about the company and let them know why you are interested in pursuing the opportunity to work there. Don't list all the reasons you want a job instead, refer to something the company takes pride in.
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