Cover Letters – Eagle or Albatross?

People offer to send me cover letters all the time.  I tell them not to bother.  My job is to provide notes to my client about each candidate so in effect, I am writing the cover letter for them.

But what about when you are applying to jobs directly?

It can be tricky to decide but whatever you do, cover letters need to be written individually.

You can have a standard paragraph in the middle but the rest of it needs to be customized every time.envelope

If you are applying to a position online and there is no mention of a cover letter, then you can probably get away with just your resume.  Many application systems have questionnaires as part of the application process.  That is the company’s way of getting most of what would be in a cover letter.

If you see a posting that asks specifically for a cover letter, then pay attention to what it’s asking for.  A lot of times, an employer wants you to lay out your goals, achievements or maybe why you think you are right for them/the role.

Take a look at the tone of the ad and also look at their website.  Try to get a feel for the culture and use this to decide the tone and format of your note.  If the company is really creative or casual, use that style but if it seems corporate and formal, then go with that.

If you are referred by someone, you definitely need a cover letter that explains who referred you, their relationship with you and why the role matters to you.

Two points to remember:

Keep your cover letter short and to the point.  It is not your life story.  It should talk about who you are, what you are good at and how to get in touch.  All those other details are in your resume.

Double and triple check the spelling – especially the name and title of the person you are addressing.  Nothing gets your letter in the trash faster than misspelling someone’s name.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Cover Letters – Eagle or Albatross?

  1. Sandra Thomson

    I agree with checking the spelling. If the covering letter or resume had any errors in spelling, it was immediately filed under “G”…..

  2. Research conducted a few years back showed that only 51% of recipients of cover letters read them. What that 51% universally looked for was the answer to the question, “Why do we matter to you?” So, my takeaway was start your cover letter talking about the company to which you are applying and what draws you to them as well as how you can help them meet their needs or objectives. The secret to the opening sentence is NOT starting with “I”. Instead start with the recipient’s company name. There’s no mistaking that you have (thoughtfully) selected that company, rather than spammed every job opportunity with an application.

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