By Alexander Grant RLC Head of Recruitment & Digital Division
“ Do I need to write a cover letter? ”
This is a question jobseekers ask regularly. My answer will depend on the candidate, and the position. It is true that most recruiters do not take the time to read a cover letter. The resume is way more important than the cover letter. So, first of all, it is essential that your resume is clean, properly formatted, with no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
“ When is a cover letter necessary? ”
If you are junior in your career, it is possible that you do not have much experience to provide in detail on your resume. Without an impressive resume, it difficult to stand out from the crowd; so, in this case, a cover letter is important: It can help the interviewer to learn a bit more about you, what you can bring to the company, what you’ve learned from the work experience you’ve had, what you have achieved, and how you want to advance your career.
“ What am I looking for in a cover letter? ”
Personally, when I am interviewing a less experienced candidate to join my team, I am looking for a spark. That spark often comes from their personality or a determination to succeed. Specifically, I want someone who is not afraid to go outside of their comfort zone. Maybe they’ve achieved something special in life, such as running a marathon; or perhaps they have a special passion for helping others through charity work; or have cultivated an art form like painting, or dancing.
I want to see something beyond the surface of the person’s resume and job history. I want to learn more about them, because after all, I will be working with them every day. Interesting people can enrich the workplace conversation, and teach us about things we’ve never experienced before. Including a cover letter that paints a more detailed picture of your life can be useful, and I will certainly take the time to read it.
According to a 2017 Job Seeker Nation Study, about 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them critical in their decision to hire. I suspect that the number of recruiters who read cover letters now, in 2022, it is a lot less. A CareerBuilder study found that 49% of HR managers feel a cover letter can give your resume a boost: but at the same time, they said a clean resume is most important.
If the job description itself asks for a cover letter with the application, of course you should include one but if it doesn’t specifically list a cover letter as a requirement, don’t send one!
“ Why is a cover letter not recommended for more experienced jobseekers? ”
We work in a time-sensitive environment: Time is money! I can quickly scan a resume and tell if a candidate has the right experience to match the role my client needs to fill. If the candidate has a poorly scripted resume with incorrect grammar; no discernible achievements; or irrelevant information on their resume, they don’t pass my initial screening, so I won’t take the time to read their cover letter either.
Most senior positions require particular competencies, and a cover letter cannot help to assess this. Instead, the recruiter is looking for key points in the resume which match what they client is looking for.
I often look at other metrics to assess candidate value. For example, if I am working on a B2B Sales Director role in a particular industry, do I need to choose a candidate who comes from that industry? Or is there a candidate in a related industry with a similar skillset that provides a different option, with a new outlook and fresh ideas? I want to challenge my clients to look at hiring decisions from several perspectives: again, a cover letter probably won’t help me here.
In conclusion, if you are junior in your career a cover letter can really help you stand out from the crowd; if you are more mid- to senior-level, it’s not really needed.
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Article written by Alexander Grant (he-him)
Director of Recruitment Operations at RLC Recruitment
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