Is the Cover Letter Dead?
Sit a job hunter, a recruiter and a hiring manager in a room to decide the answer to this question and you’ll be given several different opinions.
The job hunter might say, “I carefully tailor cover letters for every application but no one seems to read them.”
The recruiter might think, “Job hunters who omit a cover letter can be perceived as lazy, even though I often don’t look at their letters.”
The hiring manager might wonder when the art of writing cover letters died because recruiters and human resource managers may only send resumes for consideration.
Why bother with a cover letter?
You should use all available tools to gain advantage over the competition. A well-crafted, personalised letter will often provide the edge over a generic letter or an unaccompanied resume.
A cover letter will:
- Summarise several pages of resume into specific reasons you should be interviewed
- Demonstrate qualities in a don’t-tell-us-but-show-us way such as your interest, attention to detail and motivation
- Make the reader’s life easier. Imagine your resume is the fiftieth reviewed that day and how a concise letter of introduction might be appreciated
- Show you understand current conventions for the recruitment process and play by the rules
Cover letter structure
A cover letter should be three to four paragraphs comprising:
Introduction – A sentence stating the vacancy title and your interest in the role. If you are directly approaching a company or person, outline your reason for writing and how you were referred
Body text – A readable paragraph (preferably no longer than six lines) highlighting your experience and skills in relation to the role. Choose examples that align with the company’s needs and focus on the value you can bring rather than what you want
Start a new paragraph for supplementary information such as tertiary qualifications or a promotion that add to your claim. If you don’t possess all of the job’s requirements but still think it is worthwhile applying, highlight your transferable skills to help manage the employer’s risk in considering you
Closing – A statement that thanks the reader and briefly provides other information such as an intention to call and follow up
- A cover letter of more than one page is too long
- Keep the typeface and margins of a cover letter the same or as similar as possible to your resume
- Ensure your contact details are included in your cover letter and are the same as in your resume
- Follow a document naming convention like ‘Cover Letter Advertiser Name Your Name’ that makes your documents easy to identify when uploading to online job sites
- Check job advertisements to determine if the cover letter should be pasted into the body of an e-mail rather than attached
- Attempt to obtain the recipient’s name to avoid an impersonal ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ introduction
- Check that essential information such as the addressee’s name and details are spelled correctly
- Match the advertisement or job description to your letter’s contents and ensure the main requirements have been addressed
- Ensure that the achievements in your cover letter are consistent with your resume
- Undertake a final proofread for formatting, spelling, grammar and fit on the page
Follow these simple steps and your cover letter will be valuable addition to your job application.
Image: Lock and Stock Photos