Get THAT Job this Year: The Importance of the Cover Letter

Your covering letter is as important as your CV.
Getting your covering letter right is as important as your CV.

January is when we’re busiest processing enrolments in our MYOB courses, our Small Business Management courses and so on, and we’ve always been happy to be able to provide people with the training they need to make the career change they’ve been dreaming of. This January we also wanted to give you some advice on the two most dreaded aspects of applying for a new job: CVs and cover letters.

In a recent post we spoke to Fiona Neumann, a recruitment specialist and the director of Skills Savvy, a Sydney-based recruitment firm that specialises in helping people to re-enter the workforce following redundancies, raising the kids, or simply because they want to make a career change.

Fiona helped demystify the CV-writing process, which at one time or another has puzzled even the best of us. But in a job market where redundancies are almost commonplace, writing a CV is not just puzzling, it’s very often daunting, particularly for those people starting their career afresh.

Writing a Cover Letter Doesn’t Need to be Daunting!

But here’s the good news: it doesn’t need to be. Getting the job of your dreams has a lot to do with your ability to articulate yourself, which is where the cover letter comes into play.

It’s fair to say that many people see a cover letter as an afterthought; the way people see wrapping paper as the afterthought to a great gift. They spend all their time laboriously writing and fine-tuning their CV, to then put together a slap-dash covering letter just so that Seek will accept their job application.

Mistake. Big one.

Linking Back and Clarifying Your CV

Your cover letter is just as important as your CV. Aside from reinforcing all the information you’ve put into your CV, it shows that you didn’t mean to apply to some other job listed on Gumtree, and importantly, it allows you to show a recruiter or hiring manager why you’re suddenly looking to re-enter the workforce after several years of being out of it.

The key here is to be clear and concise. If you’ve been raising the kids for the last six years, write that. Don’t be vague and allude to something that could be interpreted as raising children or… being in prison.

But also don’t write a flowery vignette of your life. You need to show why you’re applying for the job you are; if it involves are change of field or industry, then explain why; why you’re qualified for the job, but not overqualified—this is important, because people that are overqualified are, to an employer, risky: you could get bored and leave, want more money than they can offer, or have difficulty with authority being that you’ve always been The Authority.

But remember: be clear and concise. And above all: don’t be bland. Recruiters read through hundreds of cover letters; they’re looking for the most qualified, most desirable person for the job. Don’t leave them wondering why you applied for the position you did. For some CV-writing help see this post; for help up-skilling, see the training courses we have on offer here.

Recruiter Tells: What Will Make Your CV Get Noticed

Find out what a recruiter has to say about how to make your CV stand out from the crowd.
Find out what a recruiter has to say about how to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

If one of your resolutions was to find a new job this year, you’re probably not alone. Job seekers are most active during the early part of a new year, so if you’re planning on taking the next step in your career, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd.

Our Small Business Management and MYOB Training courses are most popular this time of year because training courses up your skill-sets and are a key way of ensuring you’re a cut above the competition. However, that’s only as long as you’ve got your CV in front of the right people.

This makes the role of your CV an extremely important one; a lack lustre CV can often be a deal-breaker for a recruiter at the other end of an email address filling up with enough CVs to blanket Siberia — twice.

What Makes Your CV Stand Out?

So what’s going to make your CV the one recruiters and employers shortlist for an interview? We spoke to recruitment specialist and director of Skills Savvy, Fiona Neumann, to get some insight on design, whether or not everyone embellishes on their CV, and what you should put in the dreaded “special interests” section.

Q: What are some dos and don’ts when it comes to formatting, layout, design, etc? Some people think the more creative the CV, the better chance you’ll have of standing out from the pack – is this necessarily true?

Fiona: There is no rule of thumb on what you should or shouldn’t do. It really depends on the job you’re applying for. For example: If you are applying for a graphic designer role or another artistic role, then the recruiter will definitely be looking for a CV that stands out in a creative way. If it is a sales or service role then some candidates can be a little creative by adding their profile picture to the top of the CV. I personally like this, as long as it is a professional photo. This is a great way to stand out.

Q: Should your CV (and cover letter) show a bit of your personality, or is it safer to save that for the interview?

Fiona: I believe your personality comes through via your cover letter and your CV in subtle ways. When candidates place their photo at the top of their CV, this demonstrates that they are willing to put themselves out there and it shows confidence. The language a person uses also shows their personality. These are subtle ways. If your CV and cover letter is written in a way that articulates why you are the best person for the role then a recruiter will call you. A phone interview and a face-to-face interview is where the recruiter/hiring manager will see your personality.

Q: Embellishing your CV – does everyone really do it? And if so, where does that leave the honest jobseekers?

Fiona: Great question. No I don’t believe that everyone embellishes on their CV. Besides, a great recruiter is able to read between the lines and ask the candidate the right questions. The recruiter can then work out what is fact and what is fiction. A CV is important, but it is only one part of the recruitment process. If a person has written something on their CV then they will need to be able to answer questions during a phone interview or a face-to-face interview to back up their CV — and if they’ve embellished or lied in their CV, they probably won’t be able to answer the recruiter’s questions.

Q: Lastly, does any recruiter/employer really care that your interests include collecting antique teacups and reading crime novels?

Fiona: I personally like it [the special interests section], because you never know what the hiring manager may be looking for. Plus, including your interests does, in a subtle way, demonstrate personality, which helps recruiters and hiring managers determine whether you’d fit with the culture of an organisation. Take these two different examples of special interests: “I enjoy spending weekends with my family, going out for dinner and reading books,” and “I love to party, going to see live bands and watching Formula 1 racing.” There is no right or wrong answer, but you can see you are probably dealing with two completely different personalities, and while I would never discount someone based only on their special interests, it does tell me a little more about the person behind the CV.

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