7 Reasons Why a Good Cover Letter is Gold

Writing-a-cover-letterElizabeth Jarque is an experienced Human Resources Manager with Viridity Business Advisory Services and Corporate English and Communication Coach with E4B | English for Business.

From her unique insights in both specialisations, she is keenly sharing some of her observations in securing your next position.

7 Reasons Why a Good Cover Letter is Gold

Here at Viridity business is booming and we’re recruiting again. As the Viridity HR Manager I am constantly surprised at the lack of preparation given to the candidate CVs and Cover Letters that we receive.

Considering the fact that these two documents will probably be the first and only opportunity for the candidate to introduce themselves and make a memorable (positive) impression, why are candidates so careless and essentially lazy?

For example, despite the fact that our recent job advertisement specifically requested a CV and Cover letter, only 50% of applications included a Cover letter.

Hence this blog post on the importance of taking the time to construct a Cover Letter and CV that specifically addresses the critical criteria found in the Job advert.

Why? Let me give you 7 reasons

1. First impressions stick

The Cover letter is the potential employer’s first introduction to the candidate. First impressions are very hard to change which works in the candidate’s favour when the Cover Letter is a good one. It also means that the interview is more likely to open on a pre-existing positive impression, making it easier for both parties to move forward on how they benefit each other.

2. Not including a Cover Letter is also communicating something about the candidate to the prospective employer

So, there’s no Cover Letter. Often this means that myself and other HR Managers don’t even look at the CV, particularly if there are other promising candidates. Why not? Already the candidate has communicated to me that:

  • the candidate is lazy,
  • shows lack of attention to the details of the Job Advert,
  • a new role isn’t really a priority or,
  • has no idea know to write a Cover Letter.

Is Viridity really interested in a staff member with any of the above?

3. A well-constructed Cover Letter tells a story

A critical part of finding the right candidate is ensuring a good cultural fit. Will this person fit into the culture that Viridity has created? A CV rarely provides this insight. But a Cover letter should tell a story, revealing the individual personality behind all the skills and accomplishments. It’s also a great place to explain the candidate’s motives for applying – for example, why are they job searching with only 7 months in their current role? This is also the perfect opportunity to score brownie points by making reference to what Viridity does and why they would like to work for us.

4. Convinces the employer that you should be in the ‘A’ pile

A good Cover Letter should address the Job criteria using the STAR formula, and when it does, bingo, I’m hooked. We’ll certainly be giving this person a call. Why? Because any candidate can tell you how efficient, hardworking, innovative and dedicated they are. But why should I be inclined to believe them? The STAR formula proves it.

Don’t know what the STAR structure is? Look it up, it’s an excellent tool.

5. Demonstrates communication skills & other essential criteria

When a candidate takes the time to prepare an individual Cover Letter for each application, it demonstrates the following:

  • Excellent communication skills (You try to encapsulate who you are and why you are the person for a job in less than 1 page )
  • Critical and analytical thinking in determining from the Job advert the key skills and characteristics Viridity are looking for.
  • Commitment, focus and hard work.

6. A generic Cover Letter and CV are blatantly obvious.

It’s false economy to email the same CV and Cover letter to prospective employers. During Job Skills’ workshops that I occasionally facilitate, there are often job seekers who proudly tell me that they have applied for over 100 jobs and haven’t received a single response! And they’re surprised. Obviously, it’s a no brainer – poor communication skills coupled with laziness in not bothering to formulate a winning application addressing key criteria.

7. And finally, why is a good cover letter gold?

Why? Because they’re as rare and as valuable as gold. When I read one, I remember the candidate for all the right reasons and will certainly put them in the A pile…even perhaps before I’ve looked at their CV.

E4B | English for Business are keen to know your job search experiences so give us a call to discuss how to find success in securing your next position.

info@e4b.com.au or 0433 264 826 

6 myths about English at work

“There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas,” Susan Cain.

Learning a language is an illusive skill. It can create great joy in being able to communicate across boundaries, but equally, sometimes, great fear – fear of making mistakes and not being able to express yourself fully and, therefore, the feeling of having your personality suppressed.

Across many professional industries, I often work with staff members who have been identified as having weak English language skills, and it is often suggested that brushing up on grammar and building vocabulary banks will increase skills to a level more adequate for the job.

At the same time, I have learnt that there is a broad range of understanding around what it is to speak another language in the workplace, as well as there being little understanding of the differences between communication and language skills.

From the outside, it is easier for managers and recruiters to identify weaknesses of fluency and vocabulary in their non-native speaking colleagues and candidates. However, most staff members undergoing coaching themselves feel the need to build capacity around

  • developing rapport,
  • communicating effectively in meetings,
  • giving effective presentations,
  • delivering persuasive messages in both indirect and more direct ways, or
  • smoothly interacting with colleagues and clients by effectively using small talk.

That is why it is imperative to infuse cross-cultural and general communication components into language proficiency coaching, at the corporate level. While staff members can have ranging capabilities in language and cultural intelligence, the two are not always linked. There are many other myths around language that can provide serious challenges for senior management and human resources staff. Here are a few of those myths.

  1. Language proficiency is job proficiency. It is true that a lack of language proficiency can lead to many challenges in productivity, collaboration, customer and even staff retention. However, promoting or hiring the candidate due to English language fluency alone could lead to lost opportunities by not engaging with other highly gifted and adaptable candidates who are yet to fully master their corporate confidence in English.
  1. Fluent English equals a good communicator. Just because someone speaks fluently, does not mean they have the best ideas, strongest leadership capabilities or even best communication skills. Skills in persuasive language, meeting behaviour and presentation delivery can be nurtured with some linguistic refinement and strategic tools.
  1. We are better off laterally hiring middle management staff with native English communication skills. Candidates coming from other companies have learnt another company’s culture and now have to become a good fit in the new culture. Younger, graduate candidates who are nurtured linguistically and otherwise, learn the company culture from the beginning and feel valued when the company invests in their professional skills development and are, therefore, more likely to show loyalty to the company. This will also reduce costs around high rates of recruitment turnover.
  1. Native English speaking staff members are more confident. When considering who is speaking up in meetings or even who is attending meetings, it might be easier to single out the native English speakers. In speaking with non-native staff members, it has been a recurring comment that it is one thing to operate in a meeting where everyone is a non-native speaker and a complete other thing where there is a dominant group of native speakers. Research shows that even the most proficient non-native speakers feel intimidated in native-speaker environments. This suggests that there is a need for all staff to consider a unified approach to language in multinational teams and how communication is working.
  1. Language has nothing to do with culture. A fluent language user is not the same thing as being culturally proficient. However, language weakness is often more a case of finding the right linguistic cues to meet the new culture or hit the right mark when dealing with multinational teams.
  1. Non-native speakers need to improve their skills. This, of course, is true in many cases, but it is not the only element that has to change in multinational teams. Native speakers have a role to play when there is a range of fluency levels. They cannot continue to talk as if talking with people of their same culture and language and managers need to manage this carefully. Native speakers might need to slow down slightly, use less colloquial terminology and be proactive in assist co-workers to participate in the conversation.

Good language skills are not just about fluency and a good bank of vocabulary. It’s also about carefully placed questions, listening, ensuring understanding has been achieved and, most importantly, the reading of subtle cues and reactions in sensitive situations. The answer is refining a combination of cross-cultural capability and linguistic proficiency.

The good news is that all these things can be learnt and it is better to invest in the people who have the raw skills, business potential and technical competencies to get the job done – rather than responding to the most fluent, confident and loudest speaker.

Do not let language proficiency cloud management and recruitment decision and belief systems around who is the strongest candidate for the job.