The cover letter dilemma: pros and cons for job applicants

3 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

If you’ve recently started to think about new roles, feel you’ve taken your current position as far as you can or crave a change, you might be looking at opportunities available to you within your industry or market. 

It’s time to dust off your old CV and bring it up to date, but what about the covering letter? Is it a crucial tool that sets you apart from the competition, or is it an outdated relic that no one bothers to read?

Sometimes an employer will specify that they want a cover letter, but what if there’s no mention of one? While there’s no right answer to these questions, there are ways you can decide whether creating one would be right for you.

What is the purpose of a cover letter? 

A cover letter is an additional document that you can send along with your CV, during the job application stage. If you are stuck with what to include in a cover letter, it’s an introduction of yourself to a prospective employer or Hiring Manager, asking them to consider your application.

The goal of your cover letter is to make a strong case for getting put forward to the interview stage so it’s important to ensure your argument or reasons are compelling when it comes to why you’re a strong candidate for the role.

What to include in a cover letter? 

Cover letters are usually a few paragraphs long and offer readers a snapshot of your skills, experience and why you would be right for the role you’re applying for – which means that each application’s cover letter must be unique.

When writing a cover letter, you must include specific information such as a contact section, an introduction to the Hiring Manager, information on why you are qualified for the position – with good detail – as well as a closing sentence, followed by your signature.

When it comes to the difference between a CV and cover letter, you must ensure that the two are not an exact copy. While your CV is a list of all your skills and experience, highlighting how they could help with the role, your cover letter can pinpoint a couple of very relevant examples to really pull in the reader.  

The benefits of providing a cover letter

There are many benefits that come with offering a Hiring Manager or recruiter your cover letter, but mainly it’s for them to develop a better understanding of your suitability for the role. Below we have listed a number of other benefits:

  • Opportunity to showcase your personality: A well-crafted cover letter provides a unique opportunity to showcase your personality - beyond your CV. It can express your enthusiasm for the position and the company, offering a glimpse into your character and work ethic.
  • Demonstrating genuine interest: Submitting a cover letter can demonstrate your genuine interest in the role and the company itself. It shows that you've taken the time to research the company and you’ve tailored your application, this extra effort can impress Hiring Managers.
  • Addresses any question marks: If your CV has gaps or if you're changing careers, a cover letter can explain these situations. You can use it to frame your story positively and demonstrate your commitment to the new role.
  • Highlights any relevant skills and achievements: A cover letter can draw attention to specific skills and achievements that match with the job description. It can help you explain how your background makes you a perfect fit for the role without the Hiring Manager having to work it out themselves.

The possible drawbacks of creating a cover letter

As with many things, cover letters also come with their drawbacks. We have highlighted some of them here:

  • Not always read: The most significant drawback of cover letter is that they are not always read. Hiring Managers may only skim through cover letters and the extra effort may go unnoticed.
  • Potential to be redundant: If your resume covers all the necessary information about your qualifications and experience, a cover letter can feel a little bit redundant. It may seem like you're repeating what's already in your CV.
  • Time: Crafting a genuine cover letter takes time and effort. If you're applying to multiple roles, this can become a significant time investment. It may not be worth it if you don't see a substantial benefit.
  • Subjective: The effectiveness of a cover letter is subjective. What one Hiring Manager appreciates, another may not. This can make it challenging to gauge the impact of your cover letter.

So, what should you do?

The decision to submit a cover letter ultimately depends on the job you're applying for and your personal preferences. Here are some guidelines to help you decide:

  • Read the job description: If the advert specifically requests a cover letter, not submitting one could result in your application being overlooked.
  • Make it unique: If you decide to submit a cover letter, make it count. Customise it for each application, focusing on how your skills and experiences align with that role and company.
  • Keep it concise: A cover letter doesn't need to be war and peace. Keep it short and sweet, while still conveying your enthusiasm and qualifications.
  • Double check it (and check again): This should be the same for your CV, your cover letter needs to be checked and checked again before submitting any application. A great tip is to read it out loud. We have received countless cover letters and CVs saying they’re passionate about a different role to the one they are applying for.
  • Speak to your recruiter: Some recruiters will not need one, when you apply for a role, you’ll tend to have a number of in-depth conversations from which the recruiter will gain far more insights about you, your background and skill sets. 

A well-crafted cover letter can set you apart from your competition, but it should be a tool used strategically rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. There are also certain industries whereby cover letters are highly regarded, in comparison to others.

It is always best to seek the expertise from a Recruitment Consultant who will be able to advise on what would be best for you to do.

For more information on your preferred market, or for a confidential conversation about your career and next steps, feel free to contact Sellick Partnership today