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Cover Letter: Trash Or Treasure?

Should you still include a cover letter? It depends who you ask

cover letterAsk 100 hiring managers if they read cover letters that accompany resumes and you may get 101 different answers, such as these in a discussion on Electronic Recruiting Exchange.

“Rarely (but it does happen) is the cover letter even read”

“Some employers who see a resume without a cover letter are completely baffled. Their reaction is, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?'”

“I believe that cover letters are not a total thing of the past, however, increasingly they have become the dinosaur of the job seeking process.”

“I guess it is a matter of personal preference, but I love cover letters.”

“A well written cover letter makes me want to read the resume.”

Many job seekers use the cover letter like a piece of lettuce slapped on top of a sandwich:

“Dear Employer:

I saw your ad in the XXX daily classifieds and would like to be considered for the position of XXX.

I look forward to hearing from you (blah blah blah)”

Huh? What’s in that for the employer??

I have seen cover letters that name the company they want to work for – but it isn’t the name of the company they sent the cover letter to! What are the odds that they will be considered for a job? Slim to none, I’m sure!

What is the purpose of a cover letter? I can tell you what it ISN’T –

It isn’t to convince the hiring manager to read your resume because you are a good person and NEED to work for them! The cold, hard fact is that hiring managers read resumes because they HAVE to if they have a job opening – they don’t LIKE reading through hundreds or thousands of resumes to find that one perfect person for the job!

A cover letter should be a master Marketing tool – it should leap out of the stack at the hiring manager and let them know that HERE is a person who knows their company, and can do the job for them better than anyone else can!

How can your cover letter do that? Here are a few suggestions for writing a cover letter that will get read – and will get you the interview you want. (Of course, your resume will need to reflect the experience they need too!)

  1. Research the company you want to work for. Visit their web site, or go to the library and find out as much about them and their product or service as you can. Mention one or two things in your cover letter that lets them know you do know about them.
  2. Is there some challenge they are facing that your previous experience makes you an expert on helping them to solve that problem? Tell them so! But don’t just “say” you are an expert – give them a specific example of how you have helped a past employer solve that same problem. Don’t be afraid to put some work into learning these things and offering a “free” solution. Sitting back and saying that you “could” solve something IF they hired you will not get you an interview!
  3. Bullet point 2 or 3 of your most significant accomplishments and achievements – be specific and brief (that sounds like a paradox, eh?) Don’t just cut and paste these from your resume – choose some that are highly relevant to the company you are applying to.

Kevin Donlin of 1dayresumes.com offers these additional tips:

  • Show your enthusiasm about the job. Avoid sounding like 90% of applicants, who say (not in so many words): “Give me a job where I can advance and make more money.” Instead, convey this: “I’m excited about the possibility of bringing my skills to work for you.”
  • State that you will follow up to schedule an interview. If you politely inform the reader that you’ll be calling within a few days to answer any questions and schedule an in-person interview, you set yourself apart from the crowd with your determination and confidence.
  • Keep your letter short and focused. Most letters ramble on in excruciating detail for one or even two full pages. Show respect for the limited time your reader has and limit yourself to four, five or six paragraphs at most.

Kevin is the author of Resume and Cover Letter Secrets Revealed, a do-it-yourself manual that will help you find a job in 30 days … or your money back. For more information, please visit Guaranteed Resumes.

Keeping these things in mind as you prepare your cover letter to send to that ideal company you want to work for may mean the difference between having it read – or having it filed in the “round file” along with your resume!


About Terri Robinson

Terri Robinson is President of Robinson & Associates, a recruiting company that specializes in sales and marketing professionals. Terri has been published in Arizona Women's News, Arizona Reporter Online News, phoenix.about.com, interviewed by Recruiting Trends' Newsletter for their Extreme Recruiting column, and by SmartMoney Magazine.


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