How to overcome the most common cover letter issues
Apr 12, 2019
I haven’t been asked to provide a cover letter. Some employers will allow you to apply for a role without a cover letter, but unless the advert specifically asks you not to include one, you probably should. Your cover letter draws together the main points from your CV and ties them in with the job description. It’s like a newspaper headline, drawing the gaze so that you go on to read the main story (your CV in this case). If you send one and other people don’t, your application will automatically stand out! If it hasn’t been requested, keep it short and to the point, but try to make sure it has the wow factor.
I don’t know how to explain the gaps in my employment history. Employment gaps aren’t necessarily the end of the world, but it’s worth explaining them, and your cover letter is the perfect place to do it. If you have significant stretches between jobs, and particularly since your last role, briefly explain why you weren’t working. Maybe you were experiencing new cultures as you travelled the world, or perhaps you took time out to have children, which taught you a broad range of skills. Talk about any training or volunteering you undertook during these gaps. Be creative, but don’t lie or overshare.
I’m underqualified or inexperienced. If you’re applying for a role you aren’t really qualified to do, writing a cover letter can be tricky. Try to avoid drawing attention to any shortcomings or lack of experience. Instead, think of transferable skills you may have. For example, if you’re applying for a design role, you may not have a load of experience, but perhaps you’ve built up a portfolio of small jobs you’ve done over the years. Or maybe you’re applying for a charity role but that’s not your background. Maybe you have fundraising, budgeting or management skills that would equip you for the position. Explain why you’re interested in the role and how you are a good fit with the organisation’s values and objectives. Talk about qualifications you do have that display commitment and perseverence.
I’ve been asked to give current salary details. If one of the requirements for your cover letter is to provide a current or desired salary, you’ll need to address this in some shape or form. Perhaps you’re concerned the organisation won’t be able to match it or will see you as overqualified. Or maybe you’re not earning as much as you’d like and are looking for a much higher salary. Whatever the circumstances, give an idea of how much you currently make each year and explain why you are applying for a role that is above or below your existing salary. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to earn more, but try not to sound too mercenary. If you’d be taking a pay cut, explain that you’d be prepared to do so to take on a role that you would find massively rewarding in other ways.
Whatever you choose to put in your cover letter, make sure it is clear, concise and error-free!