Although my role as a retained search consultant is to proactively approach targeted individuals within a given market or industry, I do advertise.  Like many of my peers this de-risks longlists for clients, as those respondents are actively looking and are less likely to reject an offer. Personally I look to supplement a longlist with one or two of the best advert responses.

Searching and applying for positions is a grind.  Feedback isn't always forthcoming and, if you genuinely feel you are a strong contender, the process can be exasperating.  And so I'd like to flip the process to provide you with real time insight into what I look for and the process I've just been through:

 - In December I took on three new director / MD level roles within building materials.  All three clients wanted me to run social media and advertising campaigns during the festive break to maximise response rates

 - In this two week window I received around 300 applicants in total.  Roughly 80% of these were too wide of the mark to be considered.  My role was then to filter through the remaining 20% to cut these down to five to 10 to call

 - CV's and covering letters always differ immensely.  This only makes my job harder.  When looking through 300 applications, my role is to work at speed whilst ensuring I don't reject potentially strong individuals

Although this is subjective, I feel covering letters have their place.  However, unfortunately, they seem to differ hugely - from just a CV with no letter (leading me to thinking, "is this a serial respondent") to a heavily drafted, eight paragraph letter that holds little weight to the position in hand (guess what, I don't read it).

Assuming you sit within that 5-10%, how do you ensure you receive the call to further qualify your suitability?  My advice is to:

 - Personalise.  Include the recruiters name in your response.  Think about how you can stand out within that first line, or even header, without looking out of place

 - Keep your letter short.  Keep it "above the fold".  From a psychological perspective, seeing "Dear" and "Regards" without having to scroll ensures your letter is more likely to be read

 - Use the opening line to introduce your interest then clearly outline, within three to four bullet points, why you are strong for the position.  Read the priorities from the person description on the advert and clearly AND SUCCINCTLY, outline your experience against these

 - Sign off with an actionable.  If you strongly believe you are likely to be in the top 5% of respondents, state that you'll call in a couple of hours to ensure the CV's been received.

Clearly you don't want to hound people but you do need to stand out.  In everything when applying for roles you need to put yourself in the recipients position and ask, "is what I'm saying / writing adding value to them."  After all, it's how us humans are programed!