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Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Career Comment of the Day": Should a Cover letter be Very Brief?

Personally I would say neither. As a recruiter I see a whole lot of CVs and all I want to do is get to the evidence in the experience that shows me you are likely to be able to do the job in question. There is an element of personality that comes across in the way the experience is written and its focus can give a better insight into style / motivators than subjective statements, but really at CV stage I'm interested in the hard facts and will work through competencies, motivators, etc, etc in interview.

I realize the opening statement / objectives are designed to help differentiate and give a summary of what you can offer, but more often than not they all essentially say the same thing. Equally, the CV is that summary and the best differentiators are in the evidence in the detail.

I would also advise to keep cover letters (unless specifically asked for) very brief and adapt your CV for each application, highlighting your most relevant experience for that specific role. In my experience, cover letters are often ignored (especially if too wordy).

I agree you should keep your CV in a very easily readable layout - use bullet points, white space, etc....someone running through a large number of applicants will need to be able to easily find the relevant detail.

All this said, everyone reads applications differently. I would suggest that if you are applying over a website, or to an anonymous email address / HR or recruitment contact then the experience on the CV is key and statements / objectives / cover notes are more likely to be ignored. If you are applying direct to a hiring manager then, in my experience, there is no 1 right solution - some like to see additional notes and pay attention to personal statements, others don't...


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Career Comment of the Day by:
Ewan Henniker-Smith
Resourcing Manager at Allianz

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2 Post a Comment :

Ewan said...

In case anyone is wondering what the "neither" refers to in my first paragraph - the question I was answering in the original blog was:

Should a resume have a summary paragraph or an objective page? Does this make a difference to recruiters?

Ewan

Brenda Bernstein said...

My strategy when I work with job seekers on their cover letters is to assume that the recruiter or hiring manager *will* read the cover letter and that it *can* make a difference. I believe this is a safer assumption than to assume they won't read it and to write a generic cover letter with no sales potential whatsoever. I also keep human nature in mind: we all like a good story! My goal is always to pull the reader in so that after reading 3 paragraphs he or she says, "Wow, I can't believe I just read an entire cover letter and actually enjoyed it!" I see the cover letter as a chance to give a window into what it would be like to interview the candidate.

My clients get a lot of interviews. Of course I also make sure the resume is tailored to the position.

And if they don't read the cover letter, their loss!

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