Have you ever wondered whether it is worth including a covering letter when you submit your CV for a prospective contract position?
We asked Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors whether your chances of having your CV forwarded to a client are likely to be boosted by doing so, and if so, are there any tips contractors should consider when drafting a covering letter?
Is there still a place for a covering letter to go with your CV?
The term ‘covering letter’ refers to what we used before email was invented (when we used to post CVs), i.e. a letter sent with your CV to explain what the heck it was and why you were sending it. That is of course now redundant and it is fair to say that not many recruiters bother reading them. Online portals often provide the option to upload one but the option is only there because the job board developers added this functionality; it doesn’t mean you need to send one each time.
The only time I would recommend sending one is when specifically asked to do so but then I would be thinking of it as a more robust supporting statement that explains why you are suitable for the position rather than an old fashioned cover letter. It is, however, a good idea (a time consuming one I might add) to send the recruiter an email (or a Word document) that explains why you think you are an appropriate person for that particular assignment.
What if you’re submitting your CV electronically, should you attach the covering letter with your CV?
Online portals often provide the option to upload a cover letter but the option is only there because the job board developers added this functionality; it doesn’t mean you need to send one each time unless you are asked to do so.
What should your covering letter include?
In those circumstances where a supporting statement is a good idea, map out the 5 or 6 key requirements of the role and use those as headings. Under each heading, provide some evidence of where you have gained this experience, ideally using a real-life example that had a positive outcome.
What should it definitely not include?
There are lots of things that shouldn’t be included but the biggest trap that people fall into is trying to explain their personality traits in a CV or cover letter. Phrases such as being honest, reliable, trustworthy; having excellent communication skills; or heaven forbid – “I can work well in a team as well as on my own”. These clichéd behavioural traits should be avoided.
How long should it be?
A one-page general cover letter has little value, but a one to two-page supporting statement can have an impact and is acceptable in terms of length. If asked to produce one, the company (recruiter or end-client) will typically provide guidance on how long they would like the cover letter to be.
Do you have any presentation tips for your covering letter?
I would recommend having an introductory paragraph which explains the role you are applying for, then provide an outline of what you are, what your value proposition is and what pertinent skills you possess. I would then recommend mapping out the 5 or 6 key requirements of the role and use those as headings.
Under each heading, provide some evidence of where you have gained this experience, ideally using a real-life example that had a positive outcome.
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