Why are cover letters so important?

starThis year I have conducted several rounds of recruitment and looked at a lot of CVs and cover letters.  For me the cover letter is becoming the most important factor in the application, and this is why…

The jobs I have been recruiting for are the types of jobs that graduates from any discipline could do as long as they have the right transferable skills and attitude.  So the
CV as long as it covers what I have asked for, (and isn’t appalling) is less immediately interesting.

The cover letter, however, gives me an insight into whether the applicant:

  •  genuinely understands the role
  • has considered why they want to work with us and our clients
  • has thought about what is important to bring to the role
  • has considered how it fits into their career plan

Common mistakes

  • A good cover letter for a graduate level type job should be about a side of A4 (with a small amount for address info) If it’s much less it is unlikely you will convey enough information to get noticed.
  • Poor spelling and grammar.  Shows lack of attention to detail and makes you think you will have to monitor all this persons written work.
  • Not addressing why you are interested in the role and organisation.  This makes your letter look generic and it will be assumed you have not researched the role and are not interested.
  • Inaccurate or unrealistic expectations of the role and why you want to do it.   Again lack of research and reflection on your motivation for applying.
  • Waffle!  Make every word count don’t give me a paragraph of unrelated information about a past job and then not even bother to tell me why that might be relevant. Keep it short and to the point – make me want to look at your CV for more information.
  • Flim-flam. Generic comments about how wonderful you are without any evidence to back up your claims. If you make a statement and the how or why are left unanswered this needs to be addressed.
  • You never know which document a recruiter will read first your CV or cover letter.  It’s quite likely if you put them into 1 document its going to be the first one on the screen or off the printer.  Whichever they read first make sure it’s not a disappointment!

Before you start writing:


  • Is anything mentioned in your cover letter that is not on your CV.  I have seen several that mention jobs that are not on the CV!
  • Has the employer any particular guidelines for the CV or Cover letter in terms of content and presentation.  Not following hints and tips on the employers website is at best, a missed opportunity and at worst a failed application.

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