Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cover Letters 101

If you've been around me for the last 6 months, you've probably heard me vent about the lack of cover letters in the job applications I receive. There's a LOT I could say about cover letters but I'll keep this post to the importance of simply...WRITING ONE! For my company, we specifically request a cover letter to accompany the employment application. However, despite this stipulation, I still only receive a cover letter about 50% of the time. You know what I do when I don't receive a cover letter? I typically don't even read the application. Why? Because if you can't follow these simple instructions then why should I hire you and then expect you to follow my simple instructions? Because if you won't bother to explain to me why your experience is a good match for the position, then why should I try to make the case for you on my own?

Seriously. I have at least 15 other applications to read today, so you just made my job a little easier.

Your cover letter doesn't need to be long - but it does need to be about what you have to offer ME. Create a generic letter with a few sections you can easily update depending on the position. Take a little time to specify why your skill set and experience match the posted job description. If you don't live in the area, explain your reason for applying for this job in my area. If you are a recent grad with minimal experience, be honest about that and explain why I should take a chance on you. If you are trying to get into a completely new field, tell me about your transferable skills and why you're looking to make a change. Ask at least 3 other people to proofread your letter before you send it. Double check that you are sending the right cover letter to the right hiring manager. I sure get a lot of cover letters intended for the American Heart Association or Susan G. Komen. Guess what? I don't keep reading those either.

You see, as a hard-working manager with more on my plate than fits in a 8 hour work day, the mistakes you make in your cover letter make it really easy for me to toss your application and cut right to the next one. So, do yourself a favor and write a cover letter that neatly explains why you're a good fit for this position. I promise that a well-written cover letter will never hurt your chances for a job...but not writing one could very well prevent you from even getting a phone interview.

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