Do I need a Cover Letter with my CV?

It’s a question we frequently get asked.   Do I need to include a Cover Letter with my CV / Resumé? 

Here is our advice to ensure you stay on the successful side of the Cover Letter question.

Let’s get the most obvious scenario out of the way.

Scenario 1: The advert for the job asks you for a Cover Letter with the CV? Then you should send a Cover Letter. I once met a client who admitted that when they were graduating from college their job search criteria was not to apply to any job that required a cover letter because they couldn’t be bothered to write one. Luckily (and perhaps amazingly) they managed to get a job.  Not a recommended approach.
Scenario 2: You are responding to an advert for a job listed by an agency or jobs board that just asks for you to send your CV. Then you do NOT need to send a cover letter as chances are it won’t be read.
Scenario 3: You are asked to complete an online application form which has a section on “Why I think I am suitable for this role”. Then you do NOT need to send an additional cover letter – you should have said it all in the application form.
Scenario 4: You are responding to a job advert from the employer which asks you to send you CV, but doesn’t specifically mention a Cover Letter. Our advice would be to take the time to write a Cover Letter and include it with your CV. There is a 50% chance they will be expecting it and will read it….and a 50% chance that they won’t (clearly Maths is one of our strong points here at Hilt!).   Problem is you don’t know which 50% that company is in. Write the letter and make sure they know it is written for them – not just a Dear/Sir Madam version you whizz off with every CV.
Scenario 5: There is no job advertised. You are being proactive and are sending speculative applications to companies you think may be hiring in the future. Your target companies may also be currently looking for staff but are not advertising the vacancies – which accounts for up to 70% of all jobs by the way. Then you DO need a cover letter and sending a speculative CV without one is a complete waste of time.

As for Scenario 4 you need to tailor your Cover Letter and mention how you think your skills and experience can contribute to that company. When they read your Cover Letter they should be able to see that you have researched their company and that you have given some serious thought to how you can add value. Rule of thumb – the first time you write one of these targeted cover letters it will probably take you about 1 – ½ hours to write. Once you have the first one completed you can use it as a base for others so you won’t have to spend all day just writing Cover Letters. In our experience less than 20% of candidates target the Cover Letter in this way.  How to get an edge when applying and set yourself apart from other applicants?  Just spend some time on your Cover Letter!
Contact Hilt for advice on how to maximise your chances of your application making an impact.
You can also download our free guide on how to write a great Cover Letter.

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