Neville Rose, director of CV Writers, shares his tips on writing a compelling cover letter for HR professionals.
Our recent research amongst HR professionals and recruiters found opinion was split on the value placed on a cover letter. Whilst one in three respondents would read a CV regardless of the cover letter, another third would only read a CV if a cover letter impressed them first. As a job seeker you cannot afford to take any chances. If a cover letter is asked for as part of an application then it could make a vital difference in getting invited to interview.
Keep the letter brief
Three to four paragraphs is about right. If your letter has drifted on to a second page then you may be including too much detail. Remember, a CV and cover letter are about getting to interview, not getting the job. Whilst you should never copy and paste information directly from the CV, you can expand on points or even reinforce certain information you feel is important for the reader to absorb.
What information should I include?
The single most important piece of advice about what to include in a cover letter is to make sure you answer the requirements of the person specification. This is what you will be assessed against. It is vital to read the specification carefully and make sure you provide concrete evidence of how you meet these requirements. Focus on what you feel are the most important points in the specification and those that are aligned to your strengths.
The specialisms within HR are many and varied. So clearly what you write as a generalist HR manager will be different to a learning and development or organisational design specialist. As an HR business partner you may need to focus on stakeholder engagement, change or project management. People policy creation and development could be required for a head of HR role. Even jobs with similar titles can be very different so always be guided by the person specification.
Use specific examples
It is one thing to say you can do something, it is quite another to evidence it. Your cover letter will be much more powerful if you can use specific examples to demonstrate your expertise in a particular skill. Moreover, if you know what the results are in terms of business benefits and can express these in facts and figures then this will really help your letter to become very convincing.
Should I include information about my personal circumstances?
Generally, you only want to include information that will help your application. You are of course protected by equal opportunities legislation so there is no need to reveal anything about yourself in regard to age, gender, sexual orientation, race or disability. Any other personal circumstances – such as looking after an elderly relative or a medical condition – are generally best left to interview stage when it is much easier to discuss such circumstances face-to-face.
The call to action
The primary call to action for a cover letter is to get the reader to read your CV. It is after reading your CV that any decision about calling you to interview will be made so sign off by pointing the reader in the direction of your CV.
This article is written by Neville Rose, director of CV Writers.