Is the covering letter dead?
The origins of the covering letter stem back way beyond the advent of the internet when a job application involved sending a printed copy of your CV and covering letter to a potential employer in the post. Nowadays, I see very few covering letters which seems strange because it’s a good personal sales tool in what is a fiercely competitive market. Also, if you’ve taken the time to write a tailored covering letter, I think it shows that you’re serious about your job search.
We live in a modern world now where our lives are governed by 140 characters. It appears as though employers are now offering the same brevity with applications before deciding whether or not a candidate is suitable. According to a recent study, an employer will spend around 6 seconds reviewing your CV and a covering letter doesn’t even fall into this equation. The covering letter is simply skim read with little to no interest.
Having worked in recruitment for close to 4 years now and submitted thousands of CVs to my clients, I don’t think I have ever sent a covering letter! My process is to send the CV along with a précis of each candidate with highlighted relevant experience and salary expectations. So this leads me to my next question: with the modern methods of applying for a job, is the covering letter necessary?
If you send your CV directly to a business on an email, usually all of the covering letter information goes into the email. If you apply for a role through a recruitment agency, they should sell you in and if it’s on a job board, there’s usually a section for you to free-write your additional notes. Remember, there should also be a small ‘Profile’ section at the top of your CV to explain a little more about you as an individual so there are plenty of opportunities for you to add extra personal information.
I don’t think the covering letter is dead; it has merely morphed into many different guises due to the development of modern ways of applying for a new role.
As a candidate, you must find ways to differentiate yourself and encourage someone to spend more than 6 seconds looking at your details. A tailored message to accompany your CV which plants the seed of interest with the reader should be the catalyst, the CV then will provide the detail which will hopefully secure an interview. The rest is then up to you!