stressguy1People get so stressed about the cover letter.
  • Do I send?
  • How long should it be?
  • What should I put in it?
  • Do I put salary requirements in it?
Let's start with the first question. Carol from North Carolina said to me: "When sending in my resume for a job, I don't send a cover letter. It doesn't give me any advantage in getting the interview."

With all due respect Carol, I couldn't disagree more. A cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on the employer - good or bad, so there is an inherent risk there. I think with a little work, it is a risk well worth taking. In the Internet age, where applying for a job is almost too simple, the well written cover letter is your way of telling the prospective employer that you carefully read the job posting, understand the duties and requisite skills and can quickly make a pitch to them on why you are a good fit. What it also tells them is that you are not shooting resumes out a firehose at every posting you see and you are serious about their opportunity. So, without hesitation, send a cover letter.

Length and content of the letter is another thing that stresses people out and sometimes will cause them to just forgo one. What if it is too brief or too rambling? I have a very, very simple 3 part cover letter structure to follow:

Dear Human Resources Manager:

<Intro>

I would like to present my resume for consideration of the Lion Tamer position posted on circusjobs.com. (How many people are trying to go to this site now??)

<Sell>

I was quite excited when I read the job description. I feel I would be an excellent candidate for this position for these (3 or 4) reasons:
  • 12+ years of Lion Taming and no major "incidents"
  • Degree in Animal Behavior
  • Interned with Siegfried & Roy in college

<Close>

I would welcome the chance to further discuss my candidacy for this position in the form of a phone or in-person interview as your process dictates. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Me

Pretty easy and concise huh? The parts I highlighted in red should always be put in. It makes it quickly clear to the employer what job you want and where you found it. This is important data for employers to see where their postings are getting activity from, they will appreciate it. The "sell" is clear and to the point and won't make their eyes glaze over. There is no need to regurgitate your resume in the cover, just the points that connect the dots to this job.

And always close it with a mention of the next steps. It shows interest and a call to action.

As far as talking money goes, I can't stress enough that you read the job description thoroughly to ascertain what they want to know from you when you apply. If it asks, you can be vague but at least give a salary range so it shows you can follow directions. A lot of times it is more than just sending your resume and cover. You have to go through their applicant tracking system rigmarole basically cutting and pasting your resume in stupid text field boxes because they didn't buy an ATS that could do the parsing (don't get me started!), maybe answering some gating questions, and there they may ask about salary requirements, so the point may be moot. So if they ask- tell, If they don't - don't.

Finally, if you are in serious job search mode (and who isn't these days?) I would suggest a short investment of time - probably less than an hour, to write 3 or 4 cover letter templates based on the types of jobs you are looking for. For example, one for inside sales, one for outside sales/new business development, one for pre-sales, one for account management, etc. This way when you see a job you like, it is just a matter of a couple of small tweaks to personalize it and you are on your way.

Not too painful? Hopefully this took out some of the mystery and turmoil over the whole cover letter thing. Now, when you apply, you will be covered. (Awful!)

Views: 149

Comment by Dan Nuroo on April 3, 2009 at 5:19am
Hey Bill,

Love the letter. I have to add however that cover letters mean, well... to be honest... not to much to me. I rarely read them. Unless of course, they are shockingly bad (addressed to someone else, another company or anything else BAD) or fantastically good. Average letters are plain vanilla (not to knock vanilla of course), just go unnoticed.

I apparently was on my own on Twitter when @Dailycareertips didn't agree with my thoughts and ran a poll, where I lost. That said, I still rarely read them, unless of course they are in the body of an email. 2 different attachments, will just make me open up the resume. I'd prefer a phone call
Comment by Bill Meirs on April 3, 2009 at 8:17am
Hey Dan,
Thanks for your note. Lot's of good points, especially the one about putting your cover in the body of the email - I would agree that would make it more valuable, opening 2 attachments is more cumbersome. I am also very surprised (and happy) that you would prefer the personal touch of having a phone conversation with the candidate. With so many people in the job market these days, it is heartening to know there are people who care enough to take their calls to talk about the job and their candidacy.
Comment by Gino Conti on April 3, 2009 at 8:29am
Great post Bill!

There are a couple of points I am especially happy that you made. First is that a cover letter is proof that a candidate actually took the time to read and understand the job posting! It is an unfortunate fact of recruiting that there are people who go blasting their resume onto each and every job posting they see regardless of the fit. A well-written cover letter definitely stands out to me as somebody that has a genuine interest and is likely at least a half decent fit.

I'm also right there with you regarding length and content. A cover letter need not be a novel and there are plenty of people who need to learn that. I advise that people use the swimsuit method when writing a cover letter. Long enough to cover the necessities, but short enough to keep things interesting! Keeping things short and sweet eliminates the option of cutting and pasting half the resume which, aside from being redundant shows a serious lack of effort and creativity. The cover letter should be a segue way between the job description and the resume that ties it all together.

Again, thanks for the post!

Gino
Comment by Dan Nuroo on April 4, 2009 at 9:00am
What happened to all the comments that are on the Featured page? why can't I see them here? JD???

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