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Reports of the Cover Letter's Demise Are 86% Wrong

There's no question that the emergence of the personal computer and stratospheric rise of the Internet have forever altered the world of the job search. A mere two decades ago, a job seeker used one or two generic resumes to apply to several openings. Today, the recommended practice is a customized resume for each position.

And, poring over pages of classified ads in the Sunday paper for your next career move has evolved into posting resumes on job boards, searching the web for advertised positions, and networking online to find someone who knows someone who can suggest your name for that job that would be just right for you.

There are even some who go as far to suggest that all this technology has made the cover letter an anachronism.

Don't believe it for even a nanosecond.

A survey conducted by an independent research firm and developed by OfficeTeam, a staffing service that places administrative professionals, found an overwhelming 86% of executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates.

Hiring managers want to hire people who have the chops to do a certain job, but most also want to hire people whose personalities would fit in with the corporate culture and mesh with the rest of the staff. While a resume can detail your qualifications, a well written cover letter offers the hiring manager or recruiter that first glimpse of who you are, what makes you tick, and whether you would fit in with the company.

"Submitting a resume without a cover letter is like not shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time," says Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Those who aren't including cover letters with their resumes are missing an opportunity to make a good first impression and set themselves apart from other job applicants."

He adds: "A cover letter should demonstrate the applicant's knowledge of the company, highlight applicable skills and work experience, and explain any resume anomalies, such as extended employment gaps."

A well done cover letter serves not only as the gateway to your resume, but also sends a clear message that you can do your homework, you know yourself well, and — especially by explaining large gaps in your work history — that you're forthright and honest. And what employer would not want someone with those qualities?

Do you feel a cover letter has made a difference for you in landing a job? Or is it merely an exercise that doesn't add much to the job search? Please share your views in the Comments section.

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