I heard an interesting perspective from an HR executive yesterday about covering letters. She said that you only need to include a covering letter if your CV isn’t good enough!
Which is like saying that any info that’s on a covering letter should be found first in the CV. I think this is a very useful perspective, because it can shift the way critical information gets presented.
The idea of the CV and covering letter is that they paint a picture of yourself that your potential employers will appreciate. In other words, it’s got to reflect who you are and what you can do, but its got to be made for their eyes. If the CV and covering letter were artworks, they wouldn’t necessarily be pieces of individual creative expression, but more like a commission – a piece of work made for the specific attention of others.
The idea behind the covering letter is that you can convey an impression of who you are, what’s important to you and what you are like to work with. There’s greater opportunity to express your character and unique perspectives in the open format of a covering letter, than in the more rigid structure of a CV.
But should you have to rely on the covering letter to give extra insight into your employability?
Ideally, one glance at your CV from an employers eyes should be enough for them to cry out, “You’re hired!”.
Check out our last post for an awesome example of a CV that would have this effect.
Your CV is like a hologram of your employability, in that it represents each facet of what you can do. This perspective that says don’t rely on the covering letter is useful because it challenges you to find a way to present yourself fully in your CV.
I would still recommend including a covering letter though, because when have you ever come across something interesting that you didn’t want to know more about. When you discover a new song or work of art that moves you, what happens next? You want to find out more!
What your Covering Letter must demonstrate
As well as being similar to a work of art your CV is being presented in a Sales context, where you are what’s being offered. To not include a covering letter would be to miss an opportunity to connect with your target audience. The covering letter when used wisely, will demonstrate these specific things about you:
– You’ve thoroughly researched the company and the industrial environment it operates in. And not just so you can say you’ve done that but because you’re genuinely interested.
– From your research you’ve had an insight that you can share, that is directly relevant to the role you’re applying for.
– You are articulate and you know how to express yourself, the professional virtues that are important to you, through your choice of words and the ideas that you put together.
The HR executive who inspired this blog works to place French interns in London-based companies, and she sees so many CVs each day that most of them fade into the background.
This is what it’s going to be like for your CV when it goes out into the wide world. It can easily get lost in a endless sea of one-sided, black and white print, A4 sheets. The only thing you have to do to make your CV exceptional is, make sure that it reflects yourself.