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Have you heard that cover letters are dead? That hiring managers don’t read them? That they’re an unnecessary regurgitation of what’s already on your resume? Well, as was true with Mark Twain, rumors of the cover letter’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s true that many employers discard the cover letter and go straight to the resume, but it’s also true that many don’t. Related: Why I Won’t Be Reading Your Cover Letter In fact, according to Career Directors International’s 2012 Global Hiring Trends Survey, 26% of hiring authorities state that they continue to read cover letters. That’s about one reader out of every four! So, yes, a cover letter is still something you will want to spend time creating to give yourself the best odds of getting an interview. And, honestly, a cover letter is a tremendous opportunity to connect the dots between your resume--where you’ve most likely presented a more formal, professional skillset--to yourself as an enthusiastic, productive, engaged worker who perfectly matches the company’s corporate culture. It’s the chance to use the words “I,” “me,” and “my,” transforming yourself from a number in a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) into a real, hirable person. According to a recent Career Thought Leaders E-Summit, a well-executed cover letter serves as:

  • An introduction of yourself as a suitable job candidate to the company.
  • A marketing document to “sell” your skills and talents.
  • A priority list of your best qualifications, accomplishments, and other items that cause you to rise above all other applicants for THAT position within THAT company.
  • A persuasive call-to-action, priming the employer to reach out to you for an interview.
Speaking plainly, if you don’t make the most of this opportunity, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. A cover letter provides you with:

1. More keywords

More keywords in your submitted documents allow for a higher ATS score. Keywords are exactly that: key words that describe the experience, education, skills, or characteristics that a company is looking for in their ideal job candidate. Companies input the desired keywords for a position into their ATS, and candidates whose submitted documents possess those keywords will rank higher than those whose documents don’t have them. Putting keywords that match the company’s job posting into your cover letter will help your application rise to the top of the figurative pile.

2. Additional accomplishments

Additional accomplishments strengthen the case for hiring you. In other words, the specific experience or accomplishments that set you apart from the pack of candidates also applying for the position. Often, it’s an opportunity to tie together what you’ve done in various positions into a cohesive trend – something that may not be as apparent on your resume. If you know that a company is looking for a top salesperson, for example, then here’s your chance to wow them with a brief statement like, “Exceeded sales goals by more than 20% in every position within the last 12 years.”

3. Personal stories or connections

Personal stories or connections explain your interest in the company. Were you referred by their VP of Sales? Do you and the company share a passion for renewable energy? Did you complete your thesis on the very area that their new hire would be researching? Pique the employer’s interest by mentioning it!

4. Demonstrate your written communication skills

Another avenue to demonstrate your written communication skills and attention to detail, two highly valued abilities in today’s workplace.

5. Persuasive language to inspire quick action

Paint a clear enough picture of how your background and skills will benefit the hiring company, and they won’t waste any time debating whether they should consider you.

6. A tangible way for you to show your reliability

I encourage you to close your cover letter with a promise to follow up within a set time to see if they would like to schedule an interview. Scary? Maybe. But it shows initiative, and keeps your name and qualifications front and center throughout the company’s hiring process. So, do cover letters count? Absolutely! As a human resource director recently told me, people who write cover letters show that they can go the extra mile; that they actually cared enough to take the time to write a letter says a lot about a person. Why would you NOT want to give that impression? If you’d like to see a great cover letter, check out this sample cover letter on my website. And, I welcome connection requests on LinkedIn, if you’d like to stay in touch.

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