That’s it; that’s all the time you’ve got to knock the socks off potential employers reading your CV and entice them to read more. Nine seconds and you’ve lost them; before they’ve even had a chance to read about your impeccable time management skills, your unbeatable sales track record or just how highly recommended you come, your CV’s gone to the bottom of the pile.
This is the finding from recent UK research that showed employers spent just 8.8 seconds scanning a CV before deciding whether or not to request an interview with the candidate. These few precious seconds are the only ones job seekers have to attract and impress employers.
So how do you make those 8 seconds count? The covering letter. It might seem strange that such a traditional CV element is the key to capturing attention in today’s frenetic business environment, but according to Niteske Marshall, Managing Director of Network Recruitment (a division of the AdvTech Group), it provides the perfect platform for a strong, punchy 8-second sales pitch.
“Where better to sell yourself, your qualifications and your expert skills than right up front? A well-crafted covering letter is sufficient to lure employers, encouraging them to read the rest of your CV, and is brief enough to capitalise on the 8-second rule,” she explains.
When initially assessing candidates, hiring employers seldom read CVs in any great depth, rather skimming them for salient information. The covering letter allows you to put all this information in one place.
“This draws immediate attention to your best qualities and provides a glimpse into that one intangible but vital ingredient when looking for candidates – your personality. The covering letter allows the person behind the CV to come alive. Given the importance today of soft skills and correctly matching candidates to company cultures, this is invaluable,” Marshall adds.
Aside from your core competencies, covering letters should also communicate your specific interest in the hiring company; any educational qualifications you’re currently completing; your willingness to be flexible in meeting the demands of the job (such as travel); and personal achievements and accolades that could be beneficial to the hiring company.
To ensure a high-impact covering letter that screams ‘read me!’, remember these golden rules: keep it short (three quarters of a page); professional (a straightforward format with no bells and whistles, 12-size font); relevant (only highlight appropriate skills and competencies); and easy-to-read (emphasise key phrases in bold).
The right tone is also important. Make sure your covering letter is friendly and enthusiastic but still professional, avoiding jargon that has simply been added to make it look good.