Look, everyone has the right to voice their opinion. So when recruiters say they don’t read cover letters, it doesn’t offend me. And it doesn’t cause me to trash my cover letter webinar. I certainly don’t advise my clients to refrain from writing them.
Nothing I can say will change the opinions of cover-letter naysayers. That’s not my intent. My intent is to reinforce the need for job seekers in certain industries to continue writing tailor-made cover letters.
Not every hiring authority is a recruiter
Some recruiters are so hellbent on killing cover letters that it’s almost amusing. “Almost” is the operative word. I find it irritating when recruiter summarily dismiss cover letters basically because they don’t have time to read them. Recruiters are busy people, as I’ve written here.
But here’s the thing: not all job seekers reach out to recruiters, nor do recruiters reach out to all job seekers. Depending on the industry, recruiters are few and far between or nonexistent, such as non-profit, government, academia. As well, recruiters don’t dabble in lower-paid occupations.
To assume all hiring authorities don’t read cover letters is a dangerous assumption to make. Keep in mind that hiring managers read cover letters to get a better sense of a candidate’s abilities and personality. Cover letters provide another dimension to a candidate that resumes might not.
Cover letters demonstrate your ability to write
A major reason why your cover letter needs to be well written is because you’re applying for a position that requires you to write. Take marketing as an example; writing is a huge part of the role. Yes, marketers will most likely have to provide a portfolio in the interview process, but a cover letter is the first point of contact.
Your cover letter needs to accomplish two major goals. First, it needs to demonstrate the purported value you’ll deliver to the employer. The same value you express with your resume, but more directed toward the position at hand. Are you regurgitating your resume? Definitely not.
Your cover letter also must express your passion for the job at hand without being superfluous and wasting the reader’s time. I am immediately turned off when I read a cover letter that is all fluff and contains no substance. This is a common complaint of many recruiters and one reason why they don’t read them.
Your cover letter should be no longer than one page long. Within the one-page cover letter, you need to compellingly explain why you should be interviewed for the position. This is a challenge for some job candidates who tend to be verbose. Part of great writing is brevity.
Cover letters don’t have to be boring
Boring is as boring does. Please do the reader a favor and don’t open, and continue, your cover letter with boring content.
“I was excited to see on LinkedIn the position ABC company is trying to fill a project manager’s position.” How boring is this? It’s extremely boring, and a line I often see in job seekers’ cover letters. The first line of your cover letter must grab the reader’s attention, lest they discontinue reading it.
Something like, “Stop the hiring process! I’m your candidate” doesn’t bode well, either. Or does it? Some hiring authorities might like the broad approach, but not me. I prefer something strong but not obnoxious.
In the opening paragraph describe a challenge the industry is facing and state why you are the solution. In the second and third paragraphs, prove you’re the solution to the problem. The final paragraph should shout why you’re excited about the opportunity.
There you have the format for a un-boring cover letter. Keep in mind that your cover letters will change with each job to which you apply.
Every cover letter should be modified for each job
That’s right, your cover letters should be tailored to each job. Look at it this way; if you’re wooing potential love romances, would you send the same love letter to each one? Of course not. Every person is different and deserves your appreciation.
The same concept applies to cover letters; you want to show each employer the love they deserve. This means that research is essential. Show that you understand the requirements and challenges of the job, and demonstrate how you will excel at the requirements.
To further show the love, briefly explain why you’re interested in working at the company. As mentioned above, don’t write gushing verbiage that would make the reader gag. Like the love interest analogy, you want to show the company that they are special.
You might keep a cover-letter template to modify for ever job. From my experience, I wrote a totally new document every time I applied for a position.
You can be more personal with your cover letter
One thing I stress in my resume writing webinars, as well as with my clients, is that their resumes should be devoid of fluff. I’m not saying cover letters should contain fluff, but the words “love,” “enjoy,” even “outstanding,” “superior,” etc., have their place to express enthusiasm and performance.
But wait, Bob, you said earlier to avoid fluff. Yes I did, but I’m talking about a sentence, maybe two, where you’re giving the reader a sense of your personality. What I meant by fluff is a cover letter is bullshit from the beginning to the end of your cover letter. This is a major turnoff for any reader.
The job ad says, “The candidate for this job must be dynamic and a real team player.” I abhor seeing these words on a resume, but in a cover letter is a different matter. Such as, “I’ve been told by my manager that I’m a dynamic copywriter and that I contribute a great deal to the marketing team.” Their words, not yours.
Check all the boxes
This reason for writing a cover letter is listed last because it isn’t the strongest one. However, it is worth noting that some employers might make a hiring decision based on who includes a cover letter with their application.
The general rule is that if a cover letter is required for the position, definitely include one that meets the tips above. If a cover letter is not asked for, check the box and include one in your packet. Lastly, if the job ad clearly states to not send a cover letter, don’t send one.
My opinion of cover letters isn’t a popular one among the recruiters I know, but I’d like you to keep what I said earlier in mind; not all hiring authorities are recruiters. And…some recruiters appreciate cover letter, albeit a small amount.