Cover Letters Are Valuable - Only If You Know How to Write Them
Do employers read cover letters? Should you even include a cover letter when you apply to a job? The answer to both questions is a big yes!
Employers only read a cover letter if your resume catches their interest. It is that simple.Your resume has to match the job description with evident skills and keywords that will pass the six-second scan by human resources. When your resume passes the eye test, most will go directly to your cover letter to see what you have to say about why you applied to the job in the first place.
“Employers will read your cover letter in only one circumstance; your resume catches their interest.”
This is where so many mistakes are being made. Here are a few:
- You forget to change the name of the company where you are applying. This shows no attention to detail and makes it clear you are just applying to hundreds of positions. This happens all the times at all levels.
- Your cover letter is way too long. This is not the place to tell your professional and personal life story.
- Your writing style makes you look desperate for a new job. Giving too much information about your current situation of why you are searching.
- You don’t realize that you are re-writing your resume HR just read in your cover letter. This is really bad.
- Yea...typos and grammar. If you want a great job, this is not the way to get one.
- Being a wordsmith. So many of you Google cover letter examples and pick the ones that have lavish words and long sentences. You don’t need this.
My sister wanted to find a new job after twelve years with her current company. She found a job and sent me the cover letter she wanted to submit to this company. This is her original cover letter:
I am looking for an office support position with a small company. For over 12 years I've worked as an accounting clerk and feel ready for a change.
I'd like to speak with someone about the opportunities you have in the Philadelphia area.
My resume is attached for your review.
I appreciate your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
This is a very common looking cover letter that I see quite often. While I didn’t want to hurt my sisters’ feelings, I had to tell her that this isn’t optimized to ensure you give yourself an excellent chance of getting an interview. So, I rewrote it for her, and here it is:
Hello Hiring Manager,
How are you? For the last 12 years, I have been working for a manufacturing company as an accounting specialist handling A/R and A/P. I have also had office management experience in previously held positions.
While I am happy with at my current employer, they have been scaling back production. While it will not directly affect my job, the company is going through some changes that will not allow for any advancement.
Confidentially, I would be very interested in your complex A/R position you have available in Doylestown, PA. I have 12 years of JD Edwards, and the job description seems to be an excellent fit for my skills.
I have attached my resume and looking forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your time.
If you were hiring for this job and received both these cover letters, who would you interview first? It is a no-brainer. So here are my tips for writing the best cover letter:
- Keep it short.
- Develop a quick rapport. “How are you?” works well.
- Summarize your career precisely to the job you are applying to in one sentence; make it the first sentence.
- Talk positively about your current employer even if you’re in a hot mess. Letting the employer know why you are looking (quickly) is something that is not found on your resume. If you are unemployed, you can leave this sentence out and focus more on the skills you have that match the job description.
- Reference the exact position and location that you are applying for in the first place.
Finally, the best cover letters are only optimized for the job the company has open. If you have many job skills that are NOT relevant to the position, do NOT put them in the cover letter. Sounds easy, but the reason they still end up there is that many people do not customize their cover letter for each application.