Essential Cover Letter Guidelines. Dispel Myths and Stand Out.

By Graeme Jordan (CV Writer / Interview Coach / professional Marketer)

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As traditional as it might sound, cover letters are often still an important part of securing your next job. Whilst it may no longer be delivered in a hard copy format, a cover letter, whether it is sent by email or uploaded to the online application area, is still a vital way of making your application stand out.

So you might ask, ‘How do I write an effective cover letter?’ Well if you Google that, you may end up with some questionable ideas. So, here are some myths you need to ignore followed by some advice.


Myth number 1: Your cover letter is more tailored to the job role than the CV

I find it unbelievable that anyone would suggest that either of these things could be less than completely tailored to the job. Do both things really well, otherwise, why are you bothering?

Neither is more important than the other is. Your cover letter should effectively summarise why you are the right candidate for the job. Make sure you don’t hinder its effectiveness by combining it with a poorly written, generic CV.


Myth number 2: The cover letter can be used to expand on your CV

Easy maths here people:

It makes sense that a CV = 2 pages and a cover letter = 1 page with the address and sign off consuming some of the pages. You don’t have a lot of room to expand on anything. You could jeopardise the focus of the letter. If it didn’t fit in the CV, it’s probably not important enough to go in your letter.

Your cover letter should summarise your CV in relation to the job, with a statement about how you hope to get the opportunity to meet them at an interview.

When candidates try to expand on their CV using their cover letter, they usually refer to things that are not necessary. For instance, if you want to explain a gap in your work history then this should be referred to briefly, and only if it is a positive reason. If you start explaining that you lack a certain skill that they require but … Then leave this out. It is not going to help your application. Instead, concentrate on what you do have to offer them.


Myth number 3: Cover letters are never read / they’re not really important

Of course, I can’t guarantee that all letters will be read by recruiters. I have seen instances where recruiters have simply ignored them. But what if they happen to read yours and it’s not up to a good standard? If you were passionate about the job you wouldn’t take the risk!

Do I read every cover letter I am sent? Of course, I do. Maybe I’m different. But don’t send me a bad one.

And do I judge people for writing a lazy ‘Please see my CV attached’? Absolutely.

In my opinion, if the employer asks for a cover letter then it is common courtesy to provide one and it should be filled with enough detail to make it worthy of its name. Similarly, if they do not ask for one, send one anyway as it shows you have standards.


So what are the key factors that make a good cover letter?

  • Make sure it is addressed to the right person. This is not always the HR Manager. There is a good chance it will be a specific line manager. If you do not know their name then call and ask for it.
  • Let them know how you found out about the position and why it caught your attention.
  • Summarise why you are the right candidate.
  • Tell them you would love the opportunity to be selected for an interview.

Following these guidelines means your CV will be received in a positive light as you have expressed your status as a professional.

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