Why cover letters suck

CVs and Cover Letters

Many applicants may assume recruiters read resumes and cover letters to find what skills and experiences you can bring to a vacancy.  In reality they don’t! It’s far more efficient to eliminate you than it is to shortlist.  Often there are hundreds of CV’s for one role. The recruiter will compare the selection criteria with your CV, skimming it fast, searching for elimination points. It is much harder to read a text for “inclusion” or “suitability”.

This is where cover letters come in.  To make it easy for the recruiter, the cover letter is a sales pitch; highlight why you should be shortlisted for further consideration.

I have read tens of thousands of cover letters and most fail to impress – let alone contain the information I need.   I discussed this recently with a very seasoned HR Manager for an international shipping firm and she said “I struggle to read them”  Why?  “Because they typically contain unimportant information.

So what should a cover letter look like?

A cover letter needs to mirror the selection criteria. But before you do that, start with the negative: What you don’t have, why you may not be suitable. If there is a reason, you can’t hide it anyway.  Then you write ‘however’ and you list 3 – 5 reasons why you are suitable.  That’s what the recruiter is looking for!

So, next time you advertise, make it easy for yourself as a recruiter. Request the candidates to list in the cover letter:

  • The top 2 reasons why they may not be suitable for the job,
  • The top 5 reason why they could be.

Also, do not ask them to attach it, you have to click on the attachment and open it to read it. Ask them to put the cover letter straight into the email message. It will make your screening so much easier and faster. Time is money for all of us.

See also: How to spot CV fraud

11 Recruitment - Christian Madsen - Behaviour

Christian Madsen
Managing Director
11 Recruitment

LinkedIn Profile

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  • Assunta De Bono says:

    Thank you Christian,
    Logical really and I appreciate the article because I have been looking for the edge over the competition.
    Your advice in this article is greatly appreciated.
    Kindest regards

  • Peter Ruffell says:

    Interesting. I’ll try it. Thanks for the data.

  • Christie Russell says:

    Thanks so much!!! Yes I totally agree, how you’ve explained it makes perfect sense. I’ve taken this onboard, much appreciated

  • Marinika Poilly says:

    Wow! Never thought of it this way and it makes perfect sense!
    Thank you so much Christian!

  • Leo says:

    A really good common sense article that most applicants seeking jobs wouldn’t always consider. Thanks for the tips.

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