Feb 23, 2017

Are Cover Letters Worth Your Time?

Are Cover Letters Worth Writing?

Many employers seek a cover letter as a part of the application process but reports show that up to that 60% of cover letters don't get read.

How much effort should you put into the cover letter then? Will it make or break your application?

The answer is 'Maybe'. Those letters that are read are seen as being very important. 'Don't risk it' is the best advice. Here are some tips from someone who has read hundreds of them, both great and terrible. 

Make the effort to write for the position.
It is easy to see when the letter is just a form letter. If you are not going to make the effort to personalise it and make the content about the vacancy, why should the employer think you'll put any more effort into the job? This is a chance to show that you do care.

Short and sweet is always a winning strategy.
Imagine for a minute that you have been reading applications for an hour and you turn up a cover letter t hat has more type than white space. It is hard to be motivated, no matter how professional you are. We are only human. Shakespeare (via Hamlet) said that "brevity is the soul of wit," so keep your wits about you when you compose your letter.

Attend to detail.
It seems obvious, but the school administrators of today are often teachers for whom a poorly placed apostrophe or spelling error recalls all the terrors of days past. Proof-read your letters carefully and avoid any reason for your potential employer to doubt your commitment to excellence.

Put yourself in my shoes.
If you were looking for the best potential employee, what do you want to read in the cover letter? A little bit of research on the school will show whether it has a strategic direction or special initiative or vision that is similar to your skillset. Every employer is looking to see that the potential employee will bring something to the school to make life better. Think about what the reader is looking for and try to give it to them.

Open and Close
Make your introductory sentences hook the reader and make them want to continue. Something like... "I'm right for your school because… " or "This is the right position for me because… " The closing sentences should show the added value that you will bring. The best close will stick your name and skills in the mind of the reader.

Your cover letter alone won't get you the job. A poor one can blow your chances and a great one will give you the advantage over the other applicants.

Get writing!
As a Director and Principal, most recently in Beijing and Laos, Greg Smith understands recruitment in international schools. He has read hundreds of applications and made hundreds of hiring decisions. He founded Schrole Group with Rob Graham and together they provide innovative solutions to the world of international schools.
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