I ran a poll on my LinkedIn profile this Spring asking only Recruiters/Hiring Authorities to participate. I wanted to know just how important cover letters are to those in a position to schedule interviews. Unfortunately, the poll results that I received were exactly the results that I have been receiving my 10+ years in the recruitment world:
They may be necessary, or they may not.
Tells you exactly squat, right?
The reality is that with everything in life, opinions may vary. When I source candidates, I very rarely look at a candidate's cover letter. The only time I look at a cover letter is when the resume is so far out of left field for the job they have applied for, I have to better understand what they are thinking. Alas, even in this situation when a cover letter is attached, I normally found it to be the standard generic cover letter that we all have in our bag of tricks. As a job search coach, I'm honest with my candidates in saying that a cover letter may not always get read, but it's probably a safe decision to include one...as long as it doesn't read like this:
I am applying for the job of insert title here that I saw on insert web page, print source, whatever here. I feel that my skills and qualifications would be an excellent match. If there is interest in scheduling a time to meet, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Lazy Job Seeker
I figure that if you are going to take the time to apply (and my goodness can some online applications suck up your time), you might as well take the time to do it right. Customize your cover letter to the job you want. Think about what specific skills, attributes, experience they are asking for in the job description and draw a clear parallel to your background. It's ok to use bullet points. It's ok to use some success stories. It's ok to use your personality! Some other things to think about in writing your personalized cover letter:
- Include your LinkedIn URL or Blogs/articles/online resume URL
- Add in PAR or STAR statements with appropriate metrics/measures of success. For example: Identified a need to realign staff scheduling during peak times. As a result of scheduling realignment, increased employee productivity by 38%.
- Use Bold or Italics to highlight key accomplishments that are a direct match to the skills they want.
- Watch your font and length. Cover letters should be one page, easy to read, and have plenty of white space. This is not the place to write the next great American novel!
- Include a date/time to follow up and then do it! You may not always get to the decision maker, but if you do, chances are that he or she will be impressed with your persistence. Yes, it may feel like "bothering" someone, but if you aren't doing it, I promise-your competition is!
- If you can research the hiring manager, see if there are parallels between your experience and hers/his...and then make note of that in your cover letter
- Add in any relevant news/information about the company, industry, or competitors that shows that you are up to speed with the market.
Bottom line-you want to use the cover letter as your vehicle to keep the conversation going. Do this by personalizing your letter to that specific job, showing your skills and knowledge through a short snippet of success stories, and tie it all together with some good competitive intelligence! Good luck and happy hunting!
Michelle currently serves as a Job Search coach helping professionals make the leap from looking to landed. In addition to her time spent coaching individuals, she delivers a variety of training sessions from Social Networking, Working with Recruiters, Online Resume Posting, and Interview Prep.
Michelle possesses over 15 years of diverse experience in functional areas such as recruiting, human resources, coaching, training, organizational development, staffing, sales, sales management, retail, and banking/finance.
Prior to working as a job search coach, Michelle made her career in the Placement industry working most recently for the 2nd largest Staffing Company in the World. For this multi-national organization, Michelle served as an Agency Recruiter, Corporate Recruiter, Senior HR Manager, and Area Vice President. During her tenure with this organization, Michelle was also tasked with various Organizational Development programs including the creation of a company wide Career Progression Program. Michelle also served on the three person team that introduced a new “Gen Y” based hiring model that included a greater emphasis on college recruiting/branding and internships. As a result of this experience, Michelle considers her greatest strengths to be talent identification/retention, talent development, and coaching for performance improvement.
In addition to these areas of expertise, Michelle is rapidly growing her knowledge base around Social Media and Web 2.0 as it relates to the work world. She writes a regular blog on job searching that can be found at: http://hireme.typepad.com/michellemorettini/. Want to connect to Michelle?
Send her an invitation on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michellemorettini.
Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mmorettini.