Career Clinic – Cover letter tip

by Nov 14, 20111 comment

The cover letter conundrum

A cover letter is a garnish – but no substitute for the main dish

Hi Dorothy  – This may seem silly, but I have just been made redundant and am now sending out my CV online to a number of organisations. Should I send a cover letter as I have read that they are no longer of interest.  Maria – Lisbon

Hi Maria – Thanks for your question which is actually one that crops up frequently. And no – it’s not silly at all!

One of my observations about job search strategies over recent years is that there are no long-term hard and fast rules and procedures any more. Cover letters is one area where protocols seem to have become blurred and many just like you are confused.


“The answer with so many situations in job search, is that it depends.”

Many large organisations use sophisticated applicant tracking systems (ATS) where cover letters for online applications are peeled away by software programmes. Some hard pressed HR Managers also don’t include cover letters when they forward your CV to the line manager.

However, if you know the hiring or HR manager, not to include a short note will seem rude. In some cases it can be advantageous,  especially if you are writing your cover letter in a different language to your resume, it can serve to showcase your language skills.

Address the main points of the advert with your value adding statements. That should be brief. Research shows that about half a page is the preferred length by most. In today’s era of reduced attention span, that seems about right to me.

If you need help with your job search and career strategies contact 3Plus to arrange a career strategy coaching session

So what is a candidate to do?

I would always err on the side of caution. It maybe helpful – it may never see the light of day. What I would suggest is never put anything in a cover letter that isn’t in the main body of your CV, just in case.[Tweet ” A cover letter is a garnish that accentuates the main dish.”] But it should never be a substitute for it.

Hope this helps.


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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