The Importance of a Cover Letter when Applying for a new Position
As a recruiter specializing in clinical operations and clinical research, part of my work is to screen and vet candidates on behalf of my clients. During a normal week, I review scores of CVs from candidates.
However, sometimes a cover letter is not part of the application documents. So, should a candidate include a cover letter and if so, what is the purpose of a cover letter when applying for a position?
The purpose of a cover letter
While the CV includes information related to a person’s educational background and professional experience, the cover letter is an opportunity for the candidate to explain why they are interested in applying for the position. A properly written cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates and gain you an interview request. A well written cover letter also shows that the applicant can convey ideas and thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Finally, a cover letter can help to sway a recruiter to take a closer look at a candidate whose CV may not have been convincing enough to take them to the next stage.
A good cover letter
A well written cover letter should be written for the position being applied to and addressed to the employer. It goes without saying that a cover letter addressed to another organization will be immediately rejected. So, pay attention to detail! For instance, if you are applying for a highly technical position, you may decide that using technical language or terminology might highlight your familiarity and expertise in the field. Remember, a hiring manager or recruiter will immediately know if the letter is a unique production or off the assembly line. If it is the latter, then your chances of moving to the next stage will be diminished simply because it shows your lack of interest in the position.
Keep it short
In the first paragraph, start your letter with a sentence which explains how your skillset will meet the hiring organization’s needs. Stay away from cliches and overused phrases like “thinking out of the box” or “demonstrated experience in the (…) industry”. This type of writing is boring and shows disinterest.
Try to keep your cover letter concise. I suggest writing a first or second draft and then taking a walk and reviewing again later. Your letter should be positive and should show that you have some familiarity with the employer.
What do you have to offer as a professional and how could you positively affect the organization if you were to be offered the role? Sell your key strengths confidently to grab the reader’s attention. This will increase the likelihood of progression through the selection process.
Your unique skillset
Use your cover letter to highlight your unique skillset and experience. Review the job description and tailor your letter to those criteria in a clear and honest manner. Include some examples that will show a clear link between your knowledge, experience and abilities, and the needs of the employer.
While soft skills, as well as academic skills, are critical for securing an interview, it’s also important to demonstrate your experience in relation to the job description. Be sure to include examples of relevant experience in your cover letter which demonstrate the value you would bring to the organization and why you would be the best-suited candidate for the position.
A well-written, tailored cover letter will complement your CV. By aligning your CV with the job description for the position and properly addressing it to the employer, you can highlight exactly why you are the right person for the position while expressing your interest in joining the organization and becoming part of its team.