To attach or not to attach a cover letter, that is the question. If you are not yet familiar with cover letters, check our previous article on what is a cover letter.
Cover letters used to be a mainstay among the list of job application requirements. But over the years it has lost its luster and significance because the job applicants themselves did not take it seriously.
It’s difficult enough to peruse through hundreds of resumes per day and decide who moves forward and who stays behind. Recruiters had to endure hundreds of crude, meaningless and uninspiring cover letters that looked like they were mass- produced from a sweat shop in China.
In time, a segment of recruiters declared the cover letter dead. In a 2015 survey by JobVite, 2/3 of 1,400 polled recruiters stated the cover letter is not an important factor when reviewing job applications.
But is the cover letter really dead?
You have nothing to lose by attaching a cover letter with your resume. As a matter of fact, you could lose more by not attaching a cover letter.
As we stated in Chapter 7, recruiters are people with unique preferences and expectations. You have no idea of how your recruiter will react to your cover letter or the lack thereof.
If other applicants attached a cover letter, a recruiter may perceive the absence of a cover letter as a sign of laziness or carelessness on your part.
In fact by foregoing the cover letter, you may miss out on 3 potential benefits:
Benefits of Sending a Cover Letter
1. Establishes Your Brand
A cover letter helps you position your brand with the recruiter. Its purpose is to create an impression in the mind of the recruiter that is unique, identifiable and desirable with your brand. It should distinguish you from the rest of the applicants.
A cover letter functions the same way an advertisement does for a product or service. The advertising company conceptualizes the ad to establish the product’s brand in the mind of the consumer. Its value proposition should define the product from its competitors.
2. Gives a Glimpse of Your Personality
In Chapter 2, we listed the top 5 elements that should be in your resume. The fifth element is “Your Core Component”; the values that make you who you are.
Companies today are well- attuned with organizational culture. There are employers who prioritize organizational right- fitness over technical and fundamental competencies.
If well- crafted and sincerely composed, your cover letter will give the recruiter an idea of your personality. Cover letters are a perfect launching pad to tell your story.
3. Puts Your Foot Inside the Door
Similar to the resume, recruiters will only scan your cover letter. Thus, the first paragraph is critical to its success. It should detail 2 important pieces of information:
- Your contact or referral who told you of the job opening.
- Your formal intent.
If you have a contact inside the company or a person who is influential with the decision makers such as their major client or associate, you could have one foot inside the door of the hiring manager.
This bit of information should be indicated in the first line of the first paragraph.
If you have no connection, lead off with your formal intent and then indicate how you found out about the job opening. Recruiters use this information to shore up their talent acquisition processes.
Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter
1. Do Your Research
The most effective cover letters are the ones that are customized for the recipient.
Read up about the company; find out its history, key accomplishments, recent developments, advocacy and its key people. The more you know about the company, the easier it will be for you to create content that would resonate.
2. Capitalize on the First Paragraph
We already stated earlier in this chapter that if you want to maximize the benefit of the cover letter, the first paragraph is very important. You have to get the attention of the recruiter right away. Here are a few ways you can accomplish this:
a. Include the name of the referral or contact person relevant to or associated with the company.
b. Project your energy by starting out strong. Tell them right away what you can do and why you are the best person for the job.
c. Open with an attention grabbing statement that highlights your personal value but do not attempt to be funny. An example would be:
“I wish to bring 20 years of experience, expertise and effective management onboard this young, dynamic and rapidly- growing company.”
3. Keep it Short
The cover letter should be written with the purpose of introducing your resume.
It should be short but with enough detail to get the recruiter interested in exploring your resume. It must be kept succinct; the cover letter should set up expectations for the resume’s contents.
In other words, your resume must state your branded value proposition.
There is no argument here. The cover letter must be kept to just one page.
4. Keep in Touch
At the conclusion of the cover letter, advise the recruiter that you plan to get in touch. You should also inform the recruiter of the medium of communication; whether through phone call or e-mail.
Calling a recruiter is normal practice when you are job hunting. Recruiters understand it is part of their job to take in calls from applicants interested to know their status.
Is it presumptuous to call the recruiter? Would the recruiter find you bothersome? No. On the other hand, it would make you appear tenacious; a quality employers look for.
When should you not send a cover letter?
You should not send a cover letter if it is explicitly stated in the job post not to include one. Also there are some electronic submission systems whereby there is no accommodation for cover letter entries.
Otherwise, attach a cover letter. When you are competing for a job, you should not leave anything to chance. The worst thing that can happen is that the recruiter will simply ignore your cover letter. The benefits of attaching a cover letter with your resume are too significant to be ignored.