The humble resume cover letter: we all know that we should write one. And yet so many of us skip this simple step. Our reasons for this are many and varied: we kid ourselves that we don’t have the time, that it’s not needed in this day and age, or that the hiring manager won’t read it.
Maybe we hope that our impressive LinkedIn profiles and bustling industry-savvy social media accounts will suffice. After all, studies have shown that 35% of employers will view your social media page before even reading your resume.
Yet that still leaves a whopping 65% of employers who will decide whether or not to interview you based solely on the contents of your resume and (if you’ve supplied it) your cover letter.
So why do we dislike writing that cover letter so much? Maybe it harks back to the days when our mothers forced us to write countless ‘thank you’ letters to relatives for Christmas gifts. There’s just something about the act of sitting there, pen in hand, staring at a blank sheet of paper that makes even the bravest of us balk at this seemingly unnecessary task.
Yet a survey by OfficeTeam showed that not receiving a cover letter with a resume was still a huge turn-off to potential employers.
Although a large majority of jobs now allow you to apply online, this opens the door to a new ‘scattergun’ approach to job-hunting that was simply not seen in the pre-email days when you had to physically print out your job application package and mail it to a physical address. The last thing a prospective employer wants is to have to hunt through your resume for some clue as to which job you’re applying for, or (worse) to find your contact details.
Put simply, including a cover letter with your resume is good manners. Sure, we can get by pretty well in life without manners, yet who among us can fail to be charmed, to smile and say ‘thank you!’ when a stranger opens a door for us?
Make sure you open the door for your employer with your cover letter. The key to a great cover letter is as follows:
- Keep it Short – 3 paragraphs max
- Stick to the point – Don’t tell your life story
- Write a new cover letter for each job
The last point is particularly important if you are applying for jobs online. Although there are now hundreds of online job boards, be aware that the same job may be advertised on dozens of different boards. There’s nothing more off-putting to an employer to find six copies of your resume in their INBOX, all with identical cover letters.
Unlike a resume, the point of which is to get solid information across, your cover letter is also a place to let your potential employer see a little bit of your personality. Like a really good first date, the best cover letters don’t reveal all, but instead hint at all the good qualities you possess. They serve to intrigue the other party and make them want to find out more.
So be courteous but also have a little fun, add a little personal sparkle here and there, and whet the hiring manager’s appetite for the main event – meeting you at the interview.
In short, the cover letter may seem like a relic from a bygone age, but beware to those who think they can skip this important step in the job application process. It’s human nature to be impatient and want to skip to the main event right away, but a little common courtesy can give you the advantage that so many others lack these days.
And like good manners – cover letters will never be obsolete.
About Author: Reyna Ramli is a writer for CareerBliss.com, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Reyna is not writing, she enjoys cooking, working out, and reading fashion blogs and magazines.