This topic came up a few weeks ago. While many feel cover letters are a waste of their time I must disagree. They give us a quick view of how the candidates view themselves. Please tell me why getting this glimpse into the mind of a person is a waste of your time?

I am working on a position for a Network Engineer in Detroit. I have posted this job on the Michworks.org web site. (Anyone wondering why Detroit is closing down needs to look no further than the state employement website. The only option for posting an I.T. position is the "Computer and Mathematical Careers" section......does 1983 ring a bell????)

OK. So I am getting pounded with emails all morning. I'd say a dozen so far. How many cover letters? Only 3 people so far have takent the time to describe to me their background and qualifications for the job opening. You will see the best one below. Now please tell me why I should not want these again? So I can guess? So I can spend MORE time reading their whole resume looking for buzzwords and action verbs? Thanks but I'll give the guy/gal with the ability to write a few paragraphs about him/herself the first shot:



Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in response to your posted need for a Systems Engineer. I feel that my experience and skills may be just what you're looking for.

I have been in a contract position at General Motors for the past 7 years. That contract recently ended. At GM, my responsibilities grew from a position where I was the hands and feet of IT projects, to one where I was managing projects. Throughout that transition, I have always maintained a customer focused approach to IT support. In the environment of cutting costs and moving support positions to remote locations, this customer focused approach has been shared by decreasing numbers of leadership. I believe it is time for me to move to a smaller organization where I can feel a greater impact on the community that I am supporting.

You will see from my resume that I have experience in a wide range of working environments. At Business Computer Systems, I was 1 of 6 employees in the company that supported many other companies. At Freight International, I was the lone branch IT support person, but I had a large support structure at other branches and the corporate office. While employed at EDS and GM, I have had too many people to count for support.

I think you will find my comprehensive knowledge, thorough understanding of VMWare, MS/SQL and over 10 years experience of project management and technical IT operations to be most valuable to your organization.

I look forward to meeting with you in person. I can be reached on my mobile phone at Plaza -555-3624.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Michael Keleman (Fake Name)



Now dear staffing friends - what is "wrong" with this? What negatives does it bring? How is reading a cover letter NOT going to help me sort through 20 people today? I do not plan to call everyone and ask them to, in a sense, "tell" me what they "should have put" in a cover letter.

I'm calling the person above FIRST.

Thoughts?

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Jerry,

No surprise that I agree with you completely. :) Cover letters tell me so much about a candidate, how well they communicate for one. They also help me prioritize. Write a great letter that points out how you match the job well and I'll eagerly open your word doc, anticipating a great resume.

I'm working on a search now where communication skills are a big part of the job and am amazed at how few people send any kind of a detailed letter. The ones that do stand out in a sea of resumes. Interestingly, there seems to be a correlation between quality of cover letter and quality and appropriateness of candidate resume. The resumes that have no letter are the least relevant in most cases and I suspect they're just firing off the word docs to any job that catches their eye (or that has an intriguing title...doubt they even read the description in many cases.)

Only thing I'd advise people is to not send the cover letter as an attachment, unless you have to. Just paste into the email and attach the resume. Otherwise, if I get an email with two attachments, I usually jump right to the resume, which isn't always a good thing.
Remember this blog post?

Perhaps its because I've done it but the only thing other than a raging personality that gets my attention is when the person gives me a detailed picture of their most current architecture - hardware and software including version numbers - and maps it to the requirements listed in the spec (now this is a very big IF - as in IF only the recruiter knew enough to ask for an accurately write up this info).

BTW, when did you become a Madam?

I could go on and on but I'd spoil it for the thousands of other RBC members who want to respond...
I'll jump on your bandwagon Pam.. if that's OK?!

I'm not a fan of the double attachment, (keep it in the email body people!) or the Vanilla cover letter. They only stand out if Great or really, really bad.

Jerry, reading that cover letter was obviously worth your time, as it was quality. Once you on application 104 and have been addressed "Dear Sirs".. and thanked for advertising a job with your "esteemed organisation" I'm wondering if reading cover letter 2-104 were deemed as valueable.

pam claughton said:
Jerry,

No surprise that I agree with you completely. :) Cover letters tell me so much about a candidate, how well they communicate for one. They also help me prioritize. Write a great letter that points out how you match the job well and I'll eagerly open your word doc, anticipating a great resume.

I'm working on a search now where communication skills are a big part of the job and am amazed at how few people send any kind of a detailed letter. The ones that do stand out in a sea of resumes. Interestingly, there seems to be a correlation between quality of cover letter and quality and appropriateness of candidate resume. The resumes that have no letter are the least relevant in most cases and I suspect they're just firing off the word docs to any job that catches their eye (or that has an intriguing title...doubt they even read the description in many cases.)

Only thing I'd advise people is to not send the cover letter as an attachment, unless you have to. Just paste into the email and attach the resume. Otherwise, if I get an email with two attachments, I usually jump right to the resume, which isn't always a good thing.
Don't you think a well worded, detailed summary at the top of a resume does the same trick and kind of takes the place of a cover letter?

I do see value when sending a resume via email, what else do you put in the email...... "here's my resume for your open position, thanks"? That's weak.

I'm like a little puppy though; shiny, colorful objects distract me and the resume is that shiny, colorful object. If there are two attachments, you can bet I'll look at the resume and not the cover letter.
when I was making placements and all the recruiters in my office were making placements, I never read cover letters. we were placing engineers and I never found a cover letter necessary. Most engineers we dealt with had one page resumes and that was more than enough in my opinion to know if I thought the candidate had the skills to do the job I was recruiting on and if so, I'd make a call.
Since tekkies are notorious for their inability to write a halfway decent resume, I have always had to read between the lines on their resumes. Cover letters often point me in the right direction - and I still consider myself to be an engineer.

Still haven't figured out why some recruiters have ESP.

Slouch said:
when I was making placements and all the recruiters in my office were making placements, I never read cover letters. we were placing engineers and I never found a cover letter necessary. Most engineers we dealt with had one page resumes and that was more than enough in my opinion to know if I thought the candidate had the skills to do the job I was recruiting on and if so, I'd make a call.
I would echo Ehren... I think that it's common courtesy to write SOMETHING in the email (god knows we get enough blank emails with a resume attached), but at the same time (like he said) I have a short attention span so a multi-paragaph biography is going to make my eyes glaze over. If I could tell everyone what to send me it would be a few sentences on why they're ideal for the role, and then attach a resume...

Besides recruiting, I am an adjunct at a local two-year college and teach a class on resumes, interviewing etc, and I always tell them, put your CL in the email body, because if you send me two attachments I'm opening the resume first... it's not what they want to hear but it's the truth!
A cover letter that specifically addresses the key points in the job posting, and how their experience directly relates to those duties/requirements, is perfect I think...


Sandra McCartt said:
If a cover letter has additional information in it that is not included in the resume and shouldn't be i find them vital for presenting a candidate. Sometimes i will include a cover letter when i submit a resume ,if it's a good one, along with my interview notes on the candidate. With IT candidates it helps if they include some detail about technology. Accountants, not so much. Engineers, i agree with JD, never had a particularly good cover letter from an engineer. With a lot of the scientists and reasearch PHD's that we work cover letters work.

If the cover letter has some indication of salary history and reasons for changes i will spend a lot of time reading them before i call a candidate. If the candidate includes something like the fact that his wife's family or his live in the geographic area where the position is located i will call that candidate before i do others with everything else being equal.

I will also read the resume first if the cover is in a seperate doc but will always read a cover letter unless as discussed it is one of those four liners that says nothing. I don't think the summary at the top of the resume takes the place of a good cover letter. I like a cover letter that is more personal in nature.

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