Cover Letters Count
Years ago, it seemed there was no question about cover letters accompanying resumes. Now, you'll sometimes find classified ads that state explicitly "resumes only" or that tell you to fax a resume but don't stipulate the inclusion of a cover letter. What do you do?
Send a cover letter, say our employment professionals, unless an advertisement insists-explicitly-that the applicant NOT include one. Here's what else they said about this piece.
Barry Deutsch, vice president of CJA-The Adler Group, a Los Angeles-based strategic staffing and executive search firm, says, "A cover letter should always accompany a resume. It should be tailored to the specific job the person is looking for. Job seekers should be specific in their cover letters by relating experiences or results in their past to the qualities the hiring company is looking for."
New graduates seldom have a lot of work experience to draw on. If that's your situation, Deutsch advises you to relate your accomplishments from a cooperative education experience or similar experience; if you lack that type of experience, make connections between research done during course work and the hiring objectives of the employer. But, use caution with this approach, says Deutsch; depending on the academic area, some employers discount this level of research.
Richard Berman, associate dean of experiential education at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and a former college recruiter for the banking and finance industry, finds the term "cover" to be a misnomer. He considers cover letters just as or more important than resumes. As a college recruiter for a large bank, he would read the cover letter and, if it didn't grab his attention, he gave the resume a quick scan to see if it could turn his opinion around. This was quite a job considering he and three colleagues looked at approximately 25,000 letters each year to make 350 hires.
But, according to Berman, when he received a good letter, which he estimates occurred just 1 percent of the time, it was like a breath of fresh air. "I would immediately go to my colleagues and tell them I found a good one. I wanted people who talked to me in their letters-not in an overly casual manner, but [in a manner that was] somewhat conversational," says Berman.
Kirk Newsome, manager of human resources for Buckeye Pipeline, a petroleum transportation company headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania, looks for an individualized cover letter in which you present your strengths and accomplishments in a paragraph or two. Cover letters should be concise and crafted with good grammar.
He recommends composing a cover letter that conveys that you have researched the company and can connect what's happening in the company with your experience or knowledge. "There needs to be some customization [of the letter] so that I can see that person has gone the extra step," says Newsome.
Greg Denaro, manager of human resources for the Easton, Pennsylvania, division of Minerals Technologies, like many other staffing professionals, views cover letters as a place to check out the applicant's writing skills. Thus, using care in composing your cover letter and having someone proofread it can pay off.
Keep in mind that employers using resume scanning equipment will usually scan in cover letters as well. Follow the same advice given for resumes on formatting and including key words when you put together your cover letter.
Finally, don't underestimate the importance of the cover letter. In a recent survey of 150 executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 60 percent of the respondents said that when they screen applications, the cover letter is either as important as or more critical than the resume. Your cover letter really does matter.
All cover letters should:
Explain why you are sending a resume.
Don't send a resume without a cover letter.
Don't make the reader guess what you are asking for; be specific: Do you want a summer internship opportunity, or a permanent position at graduation; are you inquiring about future employment possibilities?
Tell specifically how you learned about the position or the organization — a flyer posted in your department, a web site, a family friend who works at the organization. It is appropriate to mention the name of someone who suggested that you write.
Convince the reader to look at your resume.
The cover letter will be seen first.
Therefore, it must be very well written and targeted to that employer.
Call attention to elements of your background — education, leadership, experience — that are relevant to a position you are seeking. Be as specific as possible, using examples.
Reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm, and communication skills.
Provide or refer to any information specifically requested in a job advertisement that might not be covered in your resume, such as availability date, or reference to an attached writing sample.
Indicate what you will do to follow-up.
• In a letter of application — applying for an advertised opening — applicants often say something like "I look forward to hearing from you." However, if you have further contact info (e.g. phone number) and if the employer hasn't said "no phone calls," it's better to take the initiative to follow-up, saying something like, "I will contact you in the next two weeks to see if you require any additional information regarding my qualifications."
• In a letter of inquiry — asking about the possibility of an opening — don't assume the employer will contact you. You should say something like, "I will contact you in two weeks to learn more about upcoming employment opportunities with (name of organization)." Then mark your calendar to make the call.
Answered By: low_on_ram - 10/17/2006