There’s a rumor flying around that cover letters are dead. It goes like this:
- “Nobody reads them.”
- “Recruiters hate them.”
- “They just take up valuable time.”
- “They don’t say any more than your resume.”
If all that were true, I’d be saying the same thing.
The thing is, it’s not true. In research and anecdotal remarks, recruiters are split down the middle about cover letters. Some read them; some don’t.
Since I can’t predict which recruiter will be reading my resume and cover letter, I’m going to err on the side of caution and send a cover letter. It could make all the difference.
Your cover letter is your introduction and a personalized argument as to your qualifications for the specific job for which you are applying. It should contain information that is not in your resume.
Here are the steps to writing an attention-grabbing cover letter:
- Find out the name of the decision maker (Hint: It’s not HR), and use their name on the salutation. Mention the title of the position and job number of there is one.
- Mention who told you about the opening, especially if they work at the company. Employee referrals are the No. 1 way people get hired.
- Tell the decision maker what interests you about the company, and relate their values and reputation to your own.
- Choose three or four major requirements from the job description and briefly address each one in your cover letter. Use specific examples not already in your resume of ways in which you will bring value to the company. You can even go so far as to divide this information into two columns, one headed Your Requirements, and the other titled My Qualifications. Let them know that you understand the issues they face, and that you are the solution.
- Don’t be afraid to let your excitement show. Tell the story of why you are excited and ideal for the job. This makes you memorable and keeps your letter from being boring and same-old-same-old “I’m very interested in X position at X company. Please accept my application.” Blah.
You can attach your cover letter with your resume when requested by a company Web site. If you are emailing your resume to a specific contact, use your cover letter as the body of your email.
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