We’re often asked as a business, should I write a cover letter? It’s always a tough one to answer as the current stat is that a little over 50% of cover letters are not even looked at. Additionally, we’ve seen generic cover letters do more harm than good, with “budding entrepreneurs” applying for process analyst roles or the person who is looking for “extensive training support” yet applying for a role at a start-up. Add into that the fact that recruiters typically spend about 15 seconds looking at a CV and the case for writing a cover letter seems to fade away.

However, a simple Google search will tell you that the folks at Harvard, Forbes, Oxford University and a few others still shout about the success of the cover letter. We tend to agree that a well written cover letter can be a significant advantage if well thought through and personalised.

Here are our 5 top tips for a cover letter:

  • Ensure the basics are covered – spell check, grammar check and the layout is formal
  • Be concise – brevity adds power and showcases you as an effective communicator – not longer than one page!
  • Personalise it – address it to the recruiter or hiring manager – no “dear sirs / madams / to whom it may concern”
  • Where possible try to use a personal connection to the organisation – perhaps you or someone in your family knows folks who work there, or perhaps you’re a customer
  • Unless you’re asked to provide detail on a specific area of expertise be careful not to rewrite your CV or spend a page detailing a specific skill

Remember we live in a digital, social world so if you’re putting yourself forward in a cover letter it’s important that your digital profile – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook present the same person, as most companies check these days.

Another one to check before writing a cover letter, is whether the role requires you to apply via a portal as many online portals only allow you to submit a CV these days.

So, our summary position is simple: a thoughtful, targeted cover letter can only benefit your application if read, however a generic or poorly considered letter may do more harm than good!