Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Should You Send a Cover Letter? The Survey Says....Definitely Maybe!

It would be so much easier if there were a set of job search rules to follow. It would be easier if everyone followed the same hiring guidelines, processes, and procedures. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. One of these ambiguities is whether or not to send a cover letter when you send your resume in response to a job posting.

Human resources professionals will give you differing points of view. Some of them say to always send them and that they always read them. Others say they want you to send them but they don't read them. Yet others say you should not send them. So what is a job seeker to do?

My recommendation for job seekers is to ALWAYS send a cover letter. Even the HR professionals that say they don't want them will often admit that they appreciate the effort that the job seeker takes to prepare the cover letter. While they may read some, all, or none of it, when they refer you to the hiring manager for their review, they will always pass along your resume and cover letter. With this in mind, here are some tips to help you ensure your cover letter is as effective as it can be.

  • Write your cover letter to the hiring manager's attention. Speak in terms of how you can benefit the hiring manager as an addition to their team.
  • Keep your cover letter brief and concise. A cover letter should never be longer than one page. Ideally, the cover letter is three paragraphs maximum - an introduction, a sales pitch, and a closing paragraph that includes a call to action.
  • Customize your cover letter as much as possible. Research the hiring manager's name and title and address it directly to them. Research the company's needs and goals and use the cover letter to demonstrate how you can assist them in solving their problems or achieving their objectives.
  • Engage the reader by staying away from formulaic, boring cover letters that sound like every other letter they have read that day. Grab their attention from the very first paragraph.
  • Don't regurgitate or repeat the resume. Think of the cover letter as the opportunity to introduce the resume and highlight what the reader will find when they review the resume. 

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