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Non-generic cover letters can get you the interview

By JAMES COAKES Published 19th Feb 2015
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Good cover letters are not easy to write, and the job market has changed so dramatically in the last decade, primarily as a result of the internet, that some people find it difficult to see the value in writing them. The question is, what does an employer or recruiter gain from receiving a cover letter, and by extension, what does a candidate gain by writing one?

The benefit to candidates

Many medium and large companies accept only online applications; the very largest use software to scan resumes and cover letters for specific keywords, in order to filter out unqualified applicants. Even though only a relatively small percentage make the cut, many employers receive a large number of applications, and for recruiters, there's always pressure to read and evaluate candidates as quickly as possible.

This is where the value of a good cover letter lies. It's the first opportunity a candidate has to show a recruiter or employer exactly what makes them unique, and why they're ideally qualified for a particular job. In a sea of CVs or resumes that are all very similar, the cover letter is a candidate's chance to highlight what makes them different. A cover letter can be the difference between outright rejection and a job interview.

What does a recruiter gain?

A cover letter, whether good or otherwise, provides a recruiter with all kinds of information, conveyed both directly and indirectly, in the way a candidate writes, and what they say.

  • A candidate's writing skills; the ability to convey information succinctly, as well as attention to grammar and other essentials.
  • Attention to detail; are there typos in the cover letter? Depending on the recruiter or company, a single typo can lead to an automatic rejection.
  • How well a candidate read the job description, and how well they know the company.
  • Whether they want this specific job, or just any job.

In a good cover letter, a candidate would also include information such as:

  • How the candidate would be a good fit for the job and the company.
  • How the candidate can benefit the company.
  • Links to social profiles, including LinkedIn.

Good cover letters lead to more interviews

Cover letters are very much worth the effort, but only when a candidate takes the time to write a good cover letter that's specific to the job. A generic cover letter is easy to write, but it isn't worth the time it takes to write it, because it won't achieve what a cover letter is supposed to. It won't make you stand out from the crowd, and it won't make an interviewer want to hear more from you. On the other hand, a good letter that showcases your suitability for the job in terms that relate directly to the job description, along with your knowledge of the company, and your unique talents, makes you a desirable candidate.

Cover letters seem to be an increasingly rare sight in business, but if you do have the opportunity to include a personalised one they can be a very effective way of standing out from the crowd.

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