Three weeks ago I presented at the National Resume Writer’s Association’s annual conference. This year we were virtual, but there was no shortage on great presentations from industry experts. One expert, Ashley Watkins, presented on the importance of a cover letter. The cover letter can play a critical role in the hiring process. Ashley is a former recruiter and shared that while the cover letter may not get you an interview, it may make the difference between you and another top candidate when it’s time to make a hiring decision.
Why do you need a cover letter?
Too often my clients tell me they do not need a cover letter. Professionals, HR professionals especially, share their hiring experiences where they never read an applicant’s corresponding cover letter. Then I ask my client, “What about the applicants without a cover letter.” The quick response is always the same, the HR or hiring manager will say, “Oh, well since the applicant can not be bothered to send a cover letter, I cannot be bothered to screen his/her resume.”
And there is you answer! Yes, your cover letter might not get read, but don’t eliminate yourself from the process by not providing a cover letter.
The cover letter is a letter of intent. In the cover letter you explain why you are applying for the position and what motivated you to apply. Here is another chance to answer specific qualifications or preferred qualifications you possess that the employer is looking for in a candidate. You also can speak in first person (resume is only third person) and showcase your unique voice. Why would you deny yourself an opportunity to stand out from the crowd?
Cover Letter Strategy
There is a fine line between writing a new cover letter for each job you apply for and having a cover letter template.
Your cover letter should entice a potential employer to continue to read your resume. Too often, we see a cover letter that uses the same verbiage as the summary in the corresponding resumé. The goal should be to remain professional while inserting some personality along with a compelling background story.
Another tip is KEEP IT SHORT! Aim for no more than 250-word count – this may seem insufficient, but it’s just right according to Ashley Watkins. Can you deliver a succinct memo that show you are the best candidate?
Why are you passionate about your industry or the transition into your next endeavor?
Create a template but leave room for two to three strategically placed bullet points/sentences that you will update for each position as you apply.
For example, one of my clients worked in manufacturing on an assembly line. She applied for a company that made medical devices for diabetic patients. In her cover letter, she wrote she would work on each device as if it were to be used by one of her relatives.
Patient care was what drove her work. This made her stand out from the crowd and showed she was applying to this specific position/company and not just sending out mass resumes and cover letters.
Finally, if your resume matches perfectly with the multiple candidates, your cover letter is the next tool used to sift through possible interview candidates. Bottomline, take the time to write and submit the cover letter. You never know what stage of the application process that one page will make a difference.
Until Next Tuesday…
Comment below: What are some of your common struggles you face when writing a cover letter?
Laura Bashore is the founder of Anew Resume and Career Services. As a Career Coach, Resume Writer, and LinkedIn Pro she empowers business professionals with the knowledge, tools, and methods to expand their career opportunities.
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