You’ve completed a compelling resume. You have identified your target company and they
have an opening that fits you well. You’re about to contact them but have a nagging question:
Should I include a cover letter or is it even necessary?
Here are some general rules and rationale as to when and how to write cover letters:
• If your application is to a very large company through the internet below the manager’s level, two things are generally true:
- Unless they specifically ask for a cover letter, it will not be considered nor read. Why?
- Because very large companies use a computer with algorithms to pick out key words on your resume, not your cover letter. A human may never see your cover letter.
• The higher the position in the company you’re seeking, the more meaningful the need and influence of a well tailored cover letter:
- At the Director level or above, the cover letter should be addressed to a specific individual, usually the hiring executive
- The cover letter should reference any third party who is referring you or a common association with the executive. Any connection is better than no connection.
- The cover letter should be tailor designed to a specific job or function for which the executive is looking. Never write a generic cover letter or resume then hope for the best. At the director level or above, the generic approach works against you.
• If you’re applying through a large job board posting below the Director level, a cover letter is usually not needed unless requested. If requested, follow the rules below.
• What should the content of a cover letter be? Here are some guidelines:
- Keep it short but powerful. Think of it as a delicious appetizer to a great main meal
- Put the emphasis on what you can do for them rather than what you want from them:
Say “Your search for a XXXXXXXX is of great interest to me, based on my expertise and results as follows:”, rather than “I’m interested in your open position”
- Focus on the key 4 or 5 job requirements and your parallel experiences that would make you an outstanding candidate
- Include measurable results that will get the attention of the hiring executive. Show that you have solutions and strategies that solve problems.
- Use the company name in the cover letter with an industry connection if possible
- End the cover letter with a strong statement of intent. Your passion should show through without demonstrating desperation.
Think about it this way: A compelling cover letter leads to a compelling resume, then to a compelling interview. Your job is to present yourself as a result oriented candidate who has achieved success in the function that they are looking to fill. It all starts with a powerful cover.
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