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Cover Letters are Still Important

Productive at work

Productive at workI’d like to talk a bit about cover letters, as it’s been my experience that this is one of the most overlooked things that people do when looking for a job.

This is really unfortunate because I have to tell you that, as a hiring manager, I just love getting a good cover letter with a resume.  In fact, it’s my opinion that a good cover letter can be just as important as your resume.  Why? Because it can convince me to read your resume more carefully that I might otherwise do.

Many job applicants spend hours writing and polishing their resume and then shortchange it by either not including a cover letter at all, or including a generic one that tells the reader nothing.  Spend some time on crafting a good cover letter, folks, or your carefully constructed resume may only get skimmed.  Or not read at all.

This is still a competitive job market and most savvy job seekers will have a pretty good resume that contains relevant experience and qualifications and emphasizes accomplishments.  However, many of these otherwise knowledgeable job applicants will use the same generic letter for each job opening, reasoning that their resume will speak for itself.

Huge mistake!

Here’s the thing.  When I receive a resume with no cover letter or a generic cover letter, I have to plow through your resume to determine if you’re qualified.  If it’s not immediately obvious in the first few paragraphs, I’ll simply go on the next resume because I probably have many dozens to review.

The point I want to make here is that the purpose of your cover letter is to capture my interest and make me want to read your resume.  I’ve also found that generally speaking, the best cover letters are usually accompanied by the best resumes.

The best cover letters will:
•    Be addressed to the hiring manager by name if at all possible.
•    Express your interest in the company and that exact position.
•    Highlight the information from your resume that is most relevant for that specific job.
•    Do a good job of telling the reader you’re qualified before the resume is even read.
•    State your qualifications, experience and accomplishments using major keywords from the job posting.

If you can give the reader of your cover letter a sense that you’re extremely qualified for the job, it greatly increases the chance that your resume will be read carefully and completely.

As to what the cover letter should look like, there is no single best format so long as the above major considerations are all covered.  That said, there are some specific guidelines about what to do and not do in our cover letters that will make them stronger and more polished.  I’ll begin covering these in my next post.

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