by Scott Fiore, TriStarr Staffing
While it may seem that in this age of electronic resumes and online applications, cover letters have lost their luster, I disagree. I believe quite the contrary, that they are more important than ever – if they are done correctly.
First – let’s redefine cover letter a bit. In most cases today, resumes are submitted via email, or through an online job board. In the case of email – I recommend using the body of the email as your “cover letter”. Attaching a more “traditional” cover letter to the email separately gives you less of a chance of having it seen. When submitting for a position through an online job board (CareerBuilder, etc.) you are generally provided the option to attach a “cover letter” or note to the hiring manager. Take advantage of these options.
Now let’s move on to making the cover letter work for you.
First, do your homework and find out to whom to letter should be addressed. There are too many resources available today to help you find this information. So at least try. If you cannot find the contact – please address the letter / note “Dear Hiring Manager”, or “Dear Sir/Madam”. Stay away from gender specific language, or too casual an introduction like “Hi” or “Hey there”. These are immediate turn offs.
Next, make the note short. Why are you writing? Show you have some knowledge of the company or position and have done your homework. Follow that with a short synopsis of your career – highlighting those areas that apply specifically to the position you are applying for. Finish by, again, noting your interest in the position and taking the next step, and sign off professionally.
Please, please, please make sure there are no typos, or grammatical errors. Have someone look at the note for you. Errors here (and in your resume) are the kiss of death. Also – don’t ramble. A few short paragraphs is best. Remember you goal to to get the hiring manager to open your resume, and get you in the “yes / next round” pile. Often candidates include too much information a cover letter. Hiring managers in today’s environment are looking for ways to exclude candidates to narrow their search – sometimes too much information can make it easy to move you to the “no” pile.
Finally – if an advertisement asks for specifics like salary requirements, willingness to relocate, etc – please answer these questions in the cover letter. The hiring manager wants to know for a reason, and omitting information when it’s requested just simply shows you don’t follow instructions, and odds are you’ll move to the “no” pile fairly quickly.
I believe that cover letters are as important as ever. Make sure to include them when applying for a position no matter how you are doing so. Make sure that the letter lack errors, is relevant, and to the point, and sells your abilities and experience as they relate to the position. Remember the goal of the cover letter and resume are to get you an interview, not necessarily get you the job. Sell your strengths honestly. Good luck!