Question Proposed on LinkedIn: Do you use cover letters or not?
– Too often I find people wanting to repeat what is in their resume. One of the things I am hearing from various company recruiters in our area is that they are not reading cover letters.
– It’s been my experience, (and I am opening myself up to some possible criticism here but nonetheless here goes) the cover letters are generally written more often by people with better vocabularies and higher education than those who do not.
– I’ve only ever heard from one employment recruiter that a cover letter could hurt a candidate’s chances. And his point of view was that an error-ridden, poorly composed, disorganized cover letter could detract from a good resume.
– In a cover letter, you can also head off any potential concerns a reader might have who only looks at your resume, such as having an employment gap, or several jobs in varying fields which might cause an employer to wonder if you are committed to them if hired or not. Stating something such as you have intentionally sought out employment in different sectors to gain a diversity of experience and have now settled on the job you are applying for as a longer term career move might dissuade them from thinking otherwise you are a job-hopper and can’t be counted on to stay with the company even if they hired you.
– And let’s clearly understand why some people with lower education levels stay away from cover letters at all costs; literacy plain and simple. If spelling and grammatical errors are a weak skill set, it is more than understandable that a person would shy away from exposing themselves as being unable to string together sentences with glaring errors of irregular capitalization, spelling mistakes and run-on sentences without proper punctuation etc. I get that entirely and that’s not a knock at all on the people for whom this is a huge challenge. They are in fact recognizing their weaknesses and trying to avoid giving the employer just one more reason to pass them over and that shows how smart they actually are.
– I have watched however many people put together a resume for a job with a vague opening and not use a cover letter, and I then ask them to play the role of the person receiving it at the other end. “Suppose you are the person opening the mail at the other end and the company is looking to hire 5 people including a Janitor, Clerk, Cashier, Stock and Inventory Worker and Cafeteria worker. Would you know what job this person was applying for and which Hiring Manager to forward this resume to?” The answer is that it isn’t always obvious unless the person reads the resume. And that is sending this message to a Receptionist in many cases: “You have lots of time on your hands. Read my entire resume, figure out what I’d be good at in your opinion and pass my resume on to the right person please.”
– If you are putting your hopes for an interview in this persons hands this way, no wonder no one is calling you for an interview as that Receptionist doesn’t have the time or sometimes the skills to figure out what you’d be good at and for what you are applying. That’s your job not his or hers.
– What to include? The date, your contact information, the name and title of the person to whom you are writing, one line stating the job title you are referencing all before you begin the first paragraph. Now open with a statement telling them clearly that you are applying for the job, followed by how you meet the stated requirements, and how your background makes you a solid, perhaps unique fit. Demonstrate what you know about the company and how you will add value but most important of all ask for the interview clearly and plainly. Don’t go all soft at the end and make the request for a meeting sound implied.
– Some good advice is to proofread it slowly then repeat. Get someone to look it over who writes them themselves and can give you some pointers. If you ask a friend who has a similar literacy level as yourself, they may easily miss errors despite giving it their very best. That too is understandable. This is an important document and worth your time to write.
– A cover letter is essentially an introductory letter that sets up your resume. It introduces you to the employer, tells them what you are applying for, how adding you to their organization would be advantageous for them, demonstrates your understanding of the position and why you are a good fit based on the criteria, and in a good one, it prompts the reader to both read the resume and there is a plain request for an interview. It’s apart of your job hunting toolbox. Half the employers read them, half don’t, but you need to play the game and have one.