Don’t Listen to the Cover Letter Naysayers
Here’s Why You Still Need a Cover Letter and Key Advice to Getting Yours Read
You'll find statistics all over the web that say cover letters just don't matter. They throw stats at you stating how little impact they have on your job search or how few recruiters read them. The numbers range from 40 to 60% depending on your article of choice. You will also find misleading stats on some career advice sites that try to push you in the direction of buying their templates. I scoured the web to find support for their numbers but not a single source was listed!
Here's the cold hard fact, unless the job description specifically states they don't want you to submit a cover letter, you just have to write it!
Cover letters can tip the scales in your favor if you write them correctly. While your resume will typically be the first thing someone looks when deciding if you are worth an interview, your cover letter could be important to the final decision as to who wins out for the role. Even if six out of 10 recruiters don't read it, what if your application lands on the desk of the four that do?
The main reason you hear recruiters and hiring managers self-report that they don’t read them (aside from time) is 90% of cover letters suck! They are boring form letters that end up in the trash. There is either not thought or effort put into them or the writer just doesn’t know what to say. Likely a combination of both!
Who wants to spend their day reading documents that sound like they have been copied and pasted 100 times based on a Google search. It is like nails on a chalkboard:
Dear Hiring Manager,
Please accept my enthusiastic application for XYZ role on your website. My resume is attached, but I work hard, and I want to move up in your company. I have a zillion years of experience. I look forward to talking to you about my knowledge and skills.
Tom “I sent this with every other application I completed today” Doe
Would you want to read 200 of these a day? Better yet, would reading this make you want to meet the person behind it? Or let alone work with them on a daily basis? OF COURSE NOT!
That is the greatest failure of a cover letter. Not making them believe you want the job!
A form letter may even be the reason you never get a response from your application. Use this insight to your favor. Craft a cover letter that makes a recruiter stop scanning and actually read it! With this much repetitive clutter from your competition, why not take a little extra time and make them stop reading and call you for an interview!
How do you do it? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here's a quick breakdown of the essentials to a cover letter that lands interviews:
1. Address it properly and get the details right.
Save the generic opening and address it to the actual hiring manager. Do a little research if you have to but make your greeting specific. Above all else, don’t spell the company name, addressee’s name, or any other reference incorrectly. It is lazy and is disrespectful. You can find more info HERE.
2. Customize, customize, customize!
This is your chance to hook the reader and show a little personality. It is your chance to explain what about the job drew you to apply (your connection to the ownership, their brands or philosophy, personal bond, the influence on your life, etc.). Whatever you do, make it genuine and avoid sounding canned. You aren’t a robot so don’t write like one.
Write a cover letter specific to each job application. It is your chance to introduce yourself as the best person for the job, how you fit the description of their ideal qualifications, and how you can contribute to their team.
3. Keep it to one page and use bullets.
This isn’t a dissertation or a love letter. It still needs to be brief. One page is the max, and most cover letters only need three paragraphs and three bullet points. Think like this:
Paragraph one is what job and why you want the job/to work for the company. This is the only paragraph about you.
Paragraph two introduces what you can bring to their team and three bullet points that illustrate your successes doing it during your career.
Paragraph three is your closer. Wrap up your selling points and set a clear next step regarding following up. Most people never do, so whatever you state, make sure you do it!
4. Remember, this is not about you! (Well maybe just a little).
The cover letter is about building a connection with the reader, and that comes from your story, but that is only about 25% of the letter. At the end of the day, it is still a business-marketing tool and needs to be about what you can do for them. Everyone has dreams and passion, which is great…for you. They want to know how you will be an asset in the role and why you are better than the next hundred resumes on their desk. Translate your work into how it is meaningful to their company and you will be way ahead of the curve!
If you take the time to make this document work, you won't be sorry. Cover letters are your last chance to put a personal touch on your experience and explain why, above everyone else, you're the right person for the job! When you connect the dots for the employer and compel them to learn more about you, this ‘throw away’ document becomes an amazing marketing tool.