Ask Your Boss: Does A Cover Letter Matter?

How do you feel about cover letters? I always try to do three brief paragraphs – not too long but still customized to the job. Do you ever read those? When we do recruiting, I give a lot of weight to cover letters…but I don’t know if they really matter to people doing the hiring.

I have to admit that I do not give a lot of weight to a cover letter when selecting a candidate for an interview. Most of the time I do not even request a cover letter to accompany an application. Honestly, I don’t have time to read through tons of cover letters, and later plough through tons of resumes. I do scan cover letters just to see if you can write and write well.

My opinion about a cover letter might be the exception. Others might view your cover letter as one of the most important parts of your job application. Therefore, let me strongly suggest to not underestimate the power of a cover letter because I told you that I don’t have time to read them. It is just one boss’s opinion and personal preference.

I strongly suggest to include a cover letter with a job application unless there is a statement that indicates “no cover letters.” A cover letter is a necessity and an integral part of the job application package.

Therefore, if you do need to attach a cover letter to your job application:

  • Please make sure it is tailored to a particular job. I cannot complain enough about cover letters that talk about a job that has nothing to do with the job we posted. Individualize your cover in a away that shows me your understanding of the position. Otherwise, you are doing yourself a huge disfavor. I might toss your cover letter and your resume in my outburst of frustration.
  • Please make sure that your cover letter is not another summarization of your resume. Think about your cover letter as your first chance to make an impression. Your resume is your second chance. You don’t want to repeat the same things over and over again. Or do you?
  • Please tell me a story in your cover letter. I love compelling personal stories. The difference between your resume and your cover letter is very simple. A resume lists your skills and experience that supports your skills. The cover letter tells your story.
  • Please do not tell me that you are the best of the best and I won’t find anyone better than you. Statements like this piss me off. First, it is not a true statement. It is a lie. I hate lies. Second, it is also an exaggeration. I hate exaggerations. Third, I smell your ego from miles and miles away. Big ego equals cockiness which usually equals obnoxious personality. There is only room for one cocky obnoxious personality – me. And I am the one doing the hiring.
  • Please tell me why you think the job is a good fit for you. This is where you tell me something that your resume does not communicate. It should be a very specific statement to the job you are applying. Pick one skill that is not mentioned in your resume but that is pertinent to the position. Describe it, give me an example, tell me a story.

Remember, a cover letter won’t do you any harm. Just make sure you spend some time on it, tailor it, personalize it and you might score.

Want to ask Your Boss a question? There is a form on the top of the right sidebar. Fill it in and submit it. I will write a post in response.

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3 Responses to “Ask Your Boss: Does A Cover Letter Matter?”

  1. In my world, the more specialized the job, the less the cover letter matters. If you are applying for a director level position, there’s a good chance I won’t even look at your cover letter. Your resume will tell me what I need to know. But if you are applying for an admin level position, well, your resume matters less, but your cover letter tells me if you have good writing skills and is a chance for you to differentiate yourself.

  2. CareerGoods says:

    I agree that recruiters and hiring managers rarely READ cover letters, they just skim them. For that reason, it’s a great idea to keep cover letters concise, relatively short and include bullet points in the middle of the cover letter.

    People are more likely to read bullet points than long paragraphs.

  3. I am curious what the opinion is on a T-style cover letter that has bullet lists in 2 columns, what the job requires, and how you fit. It quickly shows how you may be qualified for the position but I can understand that the redundancies between the cover letter and the resume may be unappealing.
    Joshua Q Meyers recently posted..Manufacturing skills are transferable to Biotech JobsMy Profile

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