If you’re an IT professional entering the job market , we’ve got something to tell you that will make you smile – maybe even shout for joy.  Here goes….

You may never have to write another cover letter as long as you stay in the technology profession!

See, we knew you’d smile :)

If you’re like the majority of job seekers, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time during your IT job search writing the perfect cover letter. And you’ve spent all that precious time writing this document because…well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Right?  We won’t say “wrong” but we will say “not necessarily.” 

Back in the day (before the iPod, iPad or iAnything), it was a golden rule that the cover letter always accompanied the resume. No ands, ifs or buts about it. The cover letter, so we’ve been told, must be engaging, position-specific and well-written. It must describe why you are interested in the position and what qualifications or experience makes you a good fit. It should outline your relevant experience and reflect your willingness to learn. It should also be used as an opportunity to highlight a special skill or quality you possess that would be an asset to any organization.

But wait. If the cover letter serves such an important purpose, why are we saying “fugheddaboudit?” There are three reasons, but we want to preface that the cover letter is NOT obsolete.  Job seekers (especially outside the technology industry) should be prepared to submit a cover letter when applying directly to HR or the hiring manager because a personalized, tailored letter may help to get their attention. However, when working directly with an IT recruiter, do what the gang from The Jersey Shore would do and fugheddaboudit. Here’s why:

  1. For the recruiter, the resume is the cover letter. The resume is what recruiters use to screen candidates. Because recruiters must fill numerous positions for multiple clients in very short timeframes, they don’t have time to sift through information that may or may not be pertinent to the job they’re trying to fill. This is why a customized resume highlighting skills relevant to a particular position/role is vital. If your resume impresses the recruiter, she’ll want to talk to you and that’s when you can provide additional information that isn’t included on the resume.
  2. The recruiter will search social media sites to find out more about you. If your resume gets the recruiter’s attention, it’s almost a guarantee that she will turn to social media to do a little investigative work.  For example, the recruiter may go to your LinkedIn page to review and compare work history, read recommendations, and see if there is a network connection to her or anyone she may know.  Social media is an important recruiting tool, so don’t underestimate its influence during the hiring process. We’ve blogged about social media extensively – if you want to know more about how to effectively use social media during your job search a good place to start is here.
  3. Believe it or not, 99 percent of the time our clients never request a cover letter. Simply put, they don’t have time. That’s why your resume must clearly communicate the skills, experiences and results that pertain to the position you’re applying to.

With all that said, having a “back up” cover letter is always a good idea. For instance, if the client isn’t totally sold on your skills listed on the resume, the recruiter can use information contained within the cover letter to persuade the client to consider you. The hiring manager may also be interested in viewing the cover letter to show him that you can write a sentence and know how to communicate effectively.

Bottom line, when you’re working with a recruiter don’t spend time writing an eloquent cover letter. Instead, use that time to create a powerful resume and online presence.

Views: 637

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 4, 2011 at 3:20pm

Can I ask something here?  Why would it matter what type of candidate sends some sort of cover letter?  Do accountants not need to introduce themselves?  Should engineers just send an attached resume with nothing else? 


I don't care who you are - if you're sending me a resume please move yourself one or two notches above your competitors and tell me a little bit about yourself.  I've got the time......

Comment by Todd Nilson on February 4, 2011 at 3:27pm

I was wondering the same thing myself, Jerry. Professional discipline shouldn't really have a bearing on this discussion, in my opinion. I want to see how you communicate no matter what you do for a living.


You laid your finger on an interesting point, though, and that's the perception that recruiters simply don't have enough time to evaluate additional documentation. Yes, we process an awful lot of information, but let's just breathe and realize that we're paid to evaluate the right candidates as meticulously and with as many touch points as possible.


Comment by Jerry Albright on February 4, 2011 at 3:37pm

Todd - I'm wondering just how many resumes we're talking about here.  Someone mentioned 200/day.  Sorry but I don't recall who that was.  Perhaps they can jump back in.


I could see where if I have a job posted on some high traffic sites that simply says "We are hiring for a variety of top paying jobs.  Please apply ASAP" - well then - I'm guessing your inbox is flooded daily.  Would I then be not so inclined to read every single cover letter?  Maybe. 


But for most of us - we have the time.

Comment by Slouch on February 4, 2011 at 3:43pm
Thomas, that was funny.
Comment by Sylvia Allen on February 4, 2011 at 7:21pm
I get one or two hundred resumes for a single posted position. However, I don't have to read all of them. The majority of them I can toss immediately, after reading just a few words--because they obviously aren't qualified for the position or don't even really know what position they're applying for.
Comment by Dina Harding on February 4, 2011 at 9:42pm
I commend you, Jon, on addressing a topic which seems to be endlessly debated by so many different people.  You did a really fine job stating some important facts to consider, and you did an excellent job addressing the other side and 'back-up' scenarios.  Very nicely done! ~Dina
Comment by Lesley Hardy on February 5, 2011 at 2:32am
I agree.  Its so interesting to read how other recruiters approach their work to.  You dont always talk about how you do things in the course of a day.  You just do them
Comment by Jon Prete on February 7, 2011 at 8:15am
Thanks everyone for such a lively discussion!  Everyone has valid points and I'm just surprised at how passionate folks are about the cover letter.
Comment by Leah Davis on February 9, 2011 at 3:13pm
I agree with your comments Jon and those others that recommended a bit of info in the email as opposed to wasting time perfecting a cover letter. Having assisted some 5000 people to find jobs around the globe I dont recall ever being asked for a cover letter. However, i have found that in the teaching industry schools seem to prefer having a lot more touchy feely information in the CV which kind of morphs the cover letter into the CV.
Comment by Terry Cobb on February 10, 2011 at 1:06pm

The cover letter (when used properly) can be an invaluable tool for the job seeker.  When trying to limit a resume to the acceptable 1-3 pages, there is often important information that is omitted.  The cover letter allows the job seeker to tailor that background to a specific job opening and include that omitted but valuable information.  It also give the job seeker the opportunity to explain why they are looking for a specific location, position or career change.

Don't discount the value of the cover letter when appropriate but I do recommend a job seeker avoid the "generic" one-size fits all cover letters that create a bad first impression and can actually reduce the chance of the resume getting a good look.


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