In a previous life I hosted radio and TV employment-based talk shows and one of the questions I asked almost all hiring professionals I interviewed was “Do you read cover letters?” The since-you-ask standard response was usually “No,” occasionally followed with a “Sometimes.”
I knew what ‘sometimes’ meant.
Most hiring professionals are so inundated with ‘paper’ that it is an accomplishment just to get through the thousand or so resumes that land in their inbox on a daily basis. On occasion a resume may be received that catches their eye and, if a cover letter is included, it may receive a glance.
Here is what you should know.
Cover letters are a test. If you see a posting and the instructions to apply say ‘submit your resume and a cover letter to…” then you MUST submit a cover letter. It may not even be reviewed but those resumes received without a cover letter will be summarily dismissed. Get it? This is your first test. Can you follow basic instructions? This is why I say that cover letters may be necessary.
I have even used this technique when hiring. Those responses I received without a cover letter after stating it was a requirement in my posting were straight away deleted and, honestly, who knows how many talented individuals I never considered simply because of their not being able to follow this basic instruction?
So what do you say on a document that is not going to be read?
First rule regarding cover letter content: Keep it short. Three paragraphs at most and only a sentence or two per paragraph. Show the reader how eloquent you can be in just a few lines. Brief is good!
- Paragraph 1—State that you are the ideal candidate, your interest in the position and working for the company.
- Paragraph 2 – Present a broad overview of your qualifications as they relate to the job. Do not go overboard. Your cover letter is not a second resume.
- Paragraph 3 – Create a call to action. This piece is up to you but I have always liked something as simple as: “I am ideally suited for this position and look forward to hearing from you soon. With two weeks’ notice I can begin work. Please call.”
Close with a proper “Sincerely” or “Respectfully”; your signature, your name typed, a single phone number (recruiter’s don’t call second phone numbers), and your email address.
I can’t emphasize how much short-is-good when it comes to a cover letter. Don’t waste your time trying to sell yourself here simply because (1) as mentioned earlier it probably won’t be read and (2) because your resume is your sales tool.
As always, I wish you great success!