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March 09, 2010

Cover Letters Still Make a Difference

The refrain sounds from all corners. In fact, some of the people sounding the death call for cover letters come from third-party recruiters, career coaches, career counselors, jobseekers, executives in transition and executives not in transition. Cover letters need to be understood as one of the tools you have to differentiate yourself. Unfortunately, the trending, common knowledge of those well-meaning people say things that I consider to be purely subjective opinions. If you are doing the hiring and you want to ignore covering statements, cover letters or introductory letters that’s your prerogative. But I stand against the supposed common knowledge of today.

Here is what I have heard and heard often:

– Cover letters don’t matter.

– Nobody reads cover letters.

– You really don’t have to send a cover letter with your resume.

– The online application readers don’t really read cover letters.

– Leave the box that requires a cover letter empty or just write a few lines.

– Everyone I talk to just discards cover letters.

According to Sarah J. Needleman in the Wall Street Journal, “Hiring managers say that despite the vast advice available on writing cover letters, many job hunters don’t submit them.” I think my conclusion is closer to what Needleman seems to have found – “But applicants who take the time to craft a cover letter stand a fair chance at setting themselves apart.”

So I say this to those who compete with our Career Pro Inc. clients – please continue to stop sending covering statements. Continue to submit cliche ridden cover letters, cookie cutter Internet copy covering statements and introductory statements. That will give our clients greater chances to differentiate themselves from you. But really, you might want to consider changing your mind. What are we doing? In just the last month the painstakingly difficult time our clients have spent writing compelling introductory statements, cover letters and innovative statements have directly or helped lead to high-level interviews in healthcare, financial, technology, human resources and sales.

The challenge to writing compelling copy remains. It requires the writer to research, understand the audience and produce something so compelling that even someone who claims to not read cover letters would read yours. Winning that kind of audience is tough. I feel it’s tough because so many bad cover letters add nothing to the value proposition of the candidate. They do nothing to bring some kind of call to action to the reader. The simply repeat parts of the resume in a dry, ordinary way.

In the first two months of this year multiple clients of ours have obtained multiple interviews with a savvy combination of writing, networking and winning search approaches. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been tough and hard-earned. Many clients have faced competition from hundreds of applicants per lead or opportunity. But every word matters. Every communication opportunity must be well thought out (phone, email, application, letter, essay, social media update, networking interaction).

But I can tell you this – each client views or should view a cover letter or introductory letter as a key weapon in their job search arsenal. If you take the time to understand your audience, tailor cover letters and resumes and provide careful copy, you can stand out and you can win interviews in the most competitive environments.

Posted at 8:32 AM in ,

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