The application process can be tough no matter what industry you are applying for. Whether its insurance or financial services, the stress of finding roles to apply for, the time-consuming application forms and tweaking your CV to land your dream role can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention knowing how to format and package your application for success. One of the main questions we are asked by candidates starting out on their job hunt is: what is the difference between a cover letter and a personal statement, and which should I use to maximise my job search?
Because the average hiring manager spends just 7.4 seconds looking at each CV they receive a cover letter or personal statement is an important step in conveying what makes you an ideal candidate. Getting this step of your application process right can set you apart from other candidates, help you negotiate the right salary package and land the job of your dreams.
Understanding the Cover Letter
Cover letters are usually short – no more than five paragraphs long – and are used to introduce yourself to an employer. They should be specifically written for each job application and are a great way to sell yourself and inject an element of personal connection into the process.
Cover letters should include a brief rundown of why you would be suitable for the role and what you would bring to the company. Close by thanking the hiring manager for their time.
3 top tips for writing an effective cover letter
1. Always try to include the hiring manager’s name if you can. You can usually find their details on the company’s website or on LinkedIn.
2. Be clear and concise. Cover letters should be easy to read and formatted clearly. There is no best way to format a cover letter but there are numerous templates to choose from online.
3. Back up your statements with facts and figures. You are trying to show how you will add value to the company you are applying for. If in your previous role you have made a positive contribution or you have experience solving a pertinent problem back that up with statistics.
Understanding the Personal Statement
A personal statement is a bit like a company mission statement. It is usually a short paragraph that sits at the top of your CV or on your LinkedIn page or website. It gives you a chance to sell yourself quickly and can be helpful as hiring managers often skim read CVs if they have a lot of them to get through.
Since a personal statement forms part of your CV it should be designed to compel the reader to find out more about you. It should give a brief rundown of your current role and experience before going on to cover why you would be especially suitable for the role.
3 top tips for writing an effective personal statement
- It often helps to consider the following points when drafting a personal statement: who are you, what can you offer and what are your career goals?
- Try to tailor your personal statement for every application. Look through the job description for relevant skills to pull out and highlight in your personal statement.
- Don’t worry about length when you are drafting. While personal statements are short you shouldn’t worry too much about wordcount at the draft stage. Focus on highlighting your personal achievements before narrowing down to the most relevant details when you edit.
The Differences Between Cover Letters and Personal Statements
The main difference between the two is that a personal statement focuses on you, a cover letter focusses on the job.
While they might include much of the same content, a personal statement should be more concise and highlight your knowledge, experience, and strengths. Cover letters can afford to be more expansive and discuss specific situations relevant to the role.
In terms of tone cover letters should be fairly formal and should be addressed to an individual. Personal statements, while still professional, can adopt a more personal tone, unique to you.
These days many application processes, particularly if they are online, no longer call for a cover letter however you should be prepared to include one if necessary. Best practice would be to always include a personal statement in your CV and attach a cover letter to your application when needed.
When deciding whether to include a cover letter you should consider the following factors:
- The industry you are applying to
More traditional industries such as insurance, legal and financial services may expect to receive formal cover letters as part of the application process. Doing some research into the industry and the company you are applying to can give you some context and help you decide to include a cover letter.
- The type of application process
If you are applying for a role online, many applications give you space to discuss your expertise as it relates to the role. It is no longer necessary to include a separate cover letter in these types of applications. However if you are emailing your CV directly to the hiring manager or business it may be appropriate to include your cover letter either as an attachment or in the body of the email itself.
- If you have important information to add
If there is something you have been unable to discuss fully in your CV you may wish to include a cover letter to go into more detail. For example, a career gap, sabbatical or relocation might have a significant bearing on your suitability for a role. If so you can use your cover letter to discuss the situation and highlight how it makes you ideal for the position.
- If you have a connection to the company or the role
Cover letters should also be included if you have been referred to the role by a mutual connection or existing employee. You might also wish to include a cover letter if you have another connection to the business that you would like to highlight. Perhaps you completed an internship there in the past or have worked with employees before elsewhere in the industry.
Now you know the main differences between a cover letter and a personal statement you can craft an application that will highlight your skills and experience and set you apart from the crowd.
For more career advice and to find your perfect role contact Davies today!
Whether you are just starting your financial services or insurance career or are an established professional looking for your next role, we can help.
Speak to one of our dedicated consultants who can offer you support in identifying the right job opportunities and give you tailored advice to maximise your job search.
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