Cover letter is more important than CV
The importance of a good cover letter.
Although many candidates understand the value of the CV in selling themselves to potential employers, very few realise the importance of the cover letter. In reality, the cover letter can be even more important than your CV in your job searching efforts. While the CV may be considered as the shop window to your skills and capabilities, it is the cover letter that motivates an employer to look at your CV. The employer’s first impression of you is through the cover letter. In a previous article, “Writing the perfect CV” we showed that employers only spend 8.8 seconds looking at a candidate’s CV. The better your cover letter is, the higher the chance that the employer would spend more time reading through your CV and therefore you have a better chance of securing a job interview.
The cover letter needs to impress by highlighting skills and experiences specific to the post and by explaining how you would be contributing to the company should you be chosen for the position. It needs to show that you have enthusiasm to get the job. Most people know the importance of first impressions, so more candidates should understand that they need to invest time in their job searching effort by preparing good cover letters.
The following are common mistakes that many job seekers do and which you should avoid:
Using a generic cover letter
Most of the candidates that do make the effort to include a cover letter, use a generic one which they use to send to all the job vacancies they apply for. While the cover letter needs to summarise your skills and capabilities, it should focus on those that are most relevant to the post being applied for. Furthermore, mentioning a past experience in the cover letter that is not relevant to the vacancy is another mistake candidates make. When mentioning a past experience make sure you make clear which skills you have learned that are relevant to the post. Another mistake candidates make when using a generic cover letter is that they use it to send out a multitude of applications and forget to change basic details such as the post being applied for. So, for example the cover letter would state “Attached please find my CV for the post of Receptionist” when the vacancy is actually for a Customer Care Representative. When writing a cover letter make sure you read the job description carefully to fully understand the requirements of the vacancy and what is important to the employer.
Too short or too long
Cover letters sometimes span from one extreme to another. While a cover letter such as ‘Attached please find my CV for the post of Accounts Clerk’ is definitely not the way to go, a two page cover letter is overdoing it. A cover letter should be short and to the point where it introduces yourself and highlights your skills and experiences that are RELEVANT to the post and explain why these are important to the job and the company.
Not explaining motivations
This is one of the biggest mistakes that candidates applying for a job in another country tend to do. When applying for a job in another country, it is not enough that you simply attach the CV. You need to explain to the potential employer what your plan is and when you would be able to relocate. You also need to explain how you plan to attend an interview in person and if not suggest alternative methods such as a Skype or telephone interview.
Another common mistake by job seekers is not explaining why they apply for a job that seems unrelated to their current career path. If you intend to make a career change, you need to clearly state this in the cover letter, ideally clarifying why and explaining how you intend to achieve this goal (for example by attending a course). Also explain which of your skills and/or experiences will help you adjust to the new career.
Not giving examples of past achievements
While skills and experience are important, nothing sells you better than mentioning past achievements. Examples include earning the title of employee of the month, increasing sales of your department by 5% or improving customer satisfaction rate by 8%.
The next time you apply for a job vacancy make sure you send a well thought cover letter as this could be more important than your résumé.
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