The cover letter doesn't get a lot of respect. It has a hard time pleasing everyone who writes about the job search. It's been called everything from useless to a ball and chain that can only hurt your chances at landing the job.
I see where these writers are coming from; I just don't buy what they say.
The cover letter may not get read, but, if it's written right—and, of course, read—it can boost your chances at landing an interview and the job.
The big question is: How can you make that happen when you respond to a job posting?
Here are three ways:
- Tell them the job is right up your alley. In your opening paragraph, tell the hiring manager that the position fits your skills and experience. They might see that in your resume, but the cover letter can help point out how "what you have" fits with "what they want" and give advance billing to your resume.
- Show them what you know about the company. If you already know a lot about the company and how important the role is, address that after the opening paragraph. Employers want to hire people who are enthusiastic about the role and who demonstrate that they want to work for them. If you research the employer to get that information, you might even become more excited about the opportunity.
- Got good writing skills? Here's a chance to display them. For the most part, resumes follow a standard formula, although the words and data you use can set you apart. The cover letter offers you a chance to make a personal appeal through the use of persuasive writing. It can backfire if you can't write well or fail to engage the reader in the first paragraph, so be sure you get some knowledgeable help if writing is not your strong suit. Done right, it can grab the hiring manager's attention, especially if the company and job place a high value on communications skills.
The cover letter gets a bad rap from people who say, for example, that it offers another chance to make a mistake that can leave a bad impression. There's no guarantee the cover letter will be read, but there are some "must dos" in life even if we believe they're not necessary.
So, with apologies to Nike: "Just write it!"
How has a cover letter helped you land a job? Share your experiences with us in a comment below.
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