Cover Letters: Do They Matter?

Your resume is amazing (you’ve crossed your “t”s and dotted your “i”s; no spelling errors to speak of; and it’s professional). You’re ready to send your amazing resume out to potential employers, but what about the cover letter? The cover letter is sometimes an enigma to job seekers. What is it? What’s its purpose? Why do I need one if I have an amazing resume?

What It Is and Its Purpose

The cover letter is a letter of introduction. It allows potential employers to get a feel for who you are while also getting to know you a bit. Yes, many cover letters regurgitate some of the information found on the resume, but it’s much more than putting your resume into paragraph form: it’s selling yourself.

Think of it this way: The resume is the formal outline of why you’re great; the cover letter lets your personality shine a bit so that employers can see the you behind the words. It’s a great way to let your voice be heard if even on paper.

Like the resume, your cover letter needs to be short and sweet and to the point. However, you get to expand a bit on your skills and qualifications while injecting a bit of your personality into the text.

Also like the resume, it’s important to be factual in the body of your cover letter. It’s great if you have amazing skills and qualifications, but don’t mislead the potential employer into thinking you’re something you’re not. Represent yourself truthfully and you’ll get to skip some of the problems that come with misleading an employer.

Tips and Tricks

Be specific in your cover letter. Don’t say “your company,” say the company’s name.

Expand on your skills by telling the short stories about how you got them/used them.

Explain how your skills and experience will help the position.

Ask for the interview.

Be bold and truthful.

Conclusion

The cover letter may remain slightly mysterious to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. A well-executed cover letter could very well mean the difference between getting an interview and being overlooked by a potential employer. Allow yourself to be seen through your words in the text of the letter while portraying a level of professionalism that screams to potential employers that you’ve got what it takes to take this position into the future.

The Cover Letter Conundrum: When, Why and How to Write and Use Them

This post was originally seen on the Career Rocketeer site and was written by Perry Newman.

In my opinion cover letters are the most controversial aspect of a candidate’s resume portfolio and there is much debate about the pro and con of when, why and how to write and use them effectively.

For me only one cover letter rule is written in stone; if a job posting, recruiter, or the person you are sending it to specifically ask that you include a cover letter you must send one along with your resume! If they also include a special instruction such as salary history etc, you must address the request without being cute or overly evasive.

On the other hand if a cover letter is not requested and you choose not to include one, no harm/no foul.

Something I think job hunters should be aware of is this: when you send both a cover letter and a resume as a package the majority of people in the selection and decision making process will not receive or read your cover letter; unless one is specifically requested.

First off not everyone who first screens your documents will read both; at best 50%-70% of the people will read the cover letter; this figure gets lower depending on how many resumes they have to review. Then at each level of escalation only 25%-50% of the people who got both the resume and cover letter will send the cover letter up the line to the next level of interviewer or decision maker along with your resume.

So if you’re counting on a cover letter being read and influencing the decision to interview or hire you, as we say here in Brooklyn Fuggetaboutit.

The most common cover letter approaches

Sell Yourself Approach
This approach is my least favorite, but for some reason it is the most common. I believe if a resume can stand up to scrutiny a sell yourself oriented cover letter is unnecessary. However if you feel a need to sell yourself in your cover letter to get noticed do it subtly. Focus on how you fit the job, don’t stretch the truth, and by all means don’t be long winded or ramble on. Make your point and stop.

One reason I dislike this type of cover letter is that most people who use this approach tend to reiterate verbatim the words that appear on their resume, especially the accomplishments. Worse yet some cover letters I’ve read include information that contradicts what is written in the resume.

If you are going to sell yourself in a cover letter I suggest rewriting and repackaging the information so it will be fresh not boring when they get around to reading the same information on your resume; and check your facts.

On the creative side I’ve seen people, I being one of them, use charts in cover letters when the goal is to draw comparisons between the candidate and what the company wants, what the competition brings to the table, or to compare industry wide metrics the candidate greatly exceeded.

A sales approach is best used when the resume can not strongly articulate certain critical factors because they may not be current, they are solid but limited in time or scope, or it is felt the competition is stronger. Some use a sales approach because they are lazy or uninformed about tweaking their resume for particular a job, or they feel they have a poor resume but a strong cover letter will compensate for this.

Letter of Introduction Approach

This is the approach I favor most. Again, I am of the belief if your resume can stand up to scrutiny and shows that you fit the desired profile there is no need to pre-sell yourself in a cover letter.

What I prefer is a brief professional letter of introduction expressing your interest in a specific position and telling the reader why you want this particular job and want to work for their company above all others.

I’ve been know to make a strong opening statement and then in the following paragraph/s quote the company’s own words that describe what they are looking for and close the paragraph with a statement such as ‘this is an area in which I excel’, or ‘this is my forte’, or ‘as you will see from my resume and accomplishments, I am a perfect match for the person you seek to interview and hire.’

I also on occasion have suggested including verifiable endorsement/s in this cover letter to validate value.

Closing On Objections approach

Sometimes you are not a perfect fit for a job and your resume taken at face value includes as many deselecting points as qualifiers; and there is a lot of what I call green areas (a term based on my resume writing exercises) that can be misinterpreted. These are areas where you do not have exactly what the company seeks in a hire in the exact way they want it; but you do have closely related skills, experience or had similar responsibilities in a different field or industry.

In these cases I suggest a cover letter that focuses on getting the reader to see you through your eyes and why you feel you can do the job.

If you can anticipate their objections you can overcome them before they become a deselecting factor, or get a reader to give you the benefit of the doubt and bring you in for an interview to see if you are a good match.

This cover letter is the most difficult to write; it needs to be 100% on point, positive, and perfectly worded to get your point across without turning off the screener.

About the Author: Perry Newman is a nationally-renowned job transition specialist who develops branded resumes and is a career coach for executives, professionals and MBA’s seeking six- figure positions in multiple industries within the USA. As a Certified Placement Consultant, Certified Social Media Strategist and founder and former Managing Director of a NYC-based executive search firm, Perry has a rare combination of talent and experience that is essential for your success in today’s job market. Acknowledged as a subject matter expert in his field Perry is a sought-after public speaker for radio, TV shows and career services seminars and his articles and blog posts are published in national newspapers, magazines and blogs throughout the nation and the world.