In my experience as an Executive Resume Writer, cover letters only get read about a third of the time they are sent. That being said, when one is required, or you are hoping for that added edge to get a hiring manager's attention, there is no doubt a great cover letter can make all the difference.
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The cover letter may be a second thought to many job seekers because there's the feeling that employers aren't going to read it. But the truth is you never know if it'll get read or not.
1. Don't Waste The Opening Paragraph<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc9b8a7b7efe0fa3c69c20a156a2229d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6ybiR3sJTaY?start=23&rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The opening paragraph is the most important part of the cover letter. <strong>It has to get the hiring manager's attention.</strong></p><p>Most people start off their cover letter by stating something like, "I saw your posting and I am very excited to apply." Not only is this generic, but it also does not entice the employer to continue to read your cover letter.</p><p>If you want to tell them what job opening you are applying for, just put <em>Regarding: <name of position></em> above your salutation.</p>
2. Don't Tell Your Story (Talk About What You Can Do For Them)<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjgzODY4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Mjk1NTEwOH0.eCKaziMI82ViRG-GJGUe2AX5Cz-6IDX3CTqY97ombdI/img.jpg?width=980" id="e65ef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77f0b2a266885059f3770d30e474f57c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Professional woman writing a cover letter" /><p>Many people want to tell their story: I started here and then went there and so on. But the employer does not really care about <em>your</em> story. <strong>They want to hear the story of why you're passionate about the opportunity to work there, and why you feel connected to the company in the first place.</strong></p><p>A hiring manager looks at a cover letter for an average of 3-5 seconds, so you shouldn't summarize all of your skills and <a href="https://www.workitdaily.com/assigning-value-to-career-experiences" target="_blank">career experiences</a> if you want to stand out. You need to start right off by saying, "This is why I feel connected to your company, and this is what I can do for you as a business-of-one."</p>
3. Don't Have Long Paragraphs<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjgzODY2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzE3MDM5NH0.EScp8QWx0Hwh9oYcu86g1cv984Vx7H1yzlbKigecZYA/img.jpg?width=980" id="0a17c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="52cb591b73e6baddc0c89927cc33e5d2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Man writing a cover letter during his job search" /><p>Again, the cover letter is quickly scanned, so after the opening paragraph, use bullets and short statements so they are easy to read.</p><p>Do not just repeat information you already have on <a href="https://www.workitdaily.com/get-resume-noticed-by-recruiters" target="_blank">your resume</a>. Since you stated why you're passionate about the company and what you can do for them in the opening paragraph, now it's time to provide some proof statements.</p><p><strong>For example:</strong></p><p><em>Driving record levels of sales and market share is what I do best. I have over 10 years of success in technology sales and have consistently been recognized as a top performer. Highlights of my background include: Ranked #1 out of 30 peers for delivering 157% of my sales quota in 2015.</em></p>
You've probably been told that cover letters are USELESS these days. “Recruiters don't read them!" “Hiring managers just throw them in the trash!" Well, that's not entirely true… “Cover letters are a very important part of your job search strategy," said career expert J.T. O'Donnell, “especially if you're doing a disruptive job search." A cover letter is an opportunity to explain why you feel connected to the employer, according to O'Donnell. Look at it this way: employers are looking for people who “get" them, who understand them and why they exist. If you can explain that early on in the hiring process, you increase your chances of not only standing out, but also moving forward. “A cover letter is an opportunity for you to share a story, whether it's personal or professional, that explains to them how you've come to understand that what they do is better, faster, cheaper, stronger," said O'Donnell. “As a result, you respect and admire them, and want to work for them. That's what needs to go into a cover letter." However, if you have the wrong strategy for writing cover letters, it WILL end up in the trash and you WON'T end up moving forward in the hiring process. (If you want to learn how to write a cover letter that works, check out this free webinar). So, no, cover letters aren't dead. In fact, they're far from it. As long as you can articulate why you're connected to the company in a disruptive way, you have a shot at standing out among all of the other candidates and, ultimately, getting the job.
“Stop Writing Cover Letters! Nobody reads them, and writing one can only hurt you. You’re wasting your time.” This headline, on a recent Facebook post, certainly caught my attention. Coming from the legacy world of resumes being sent via the postal service, even updating that to a resume being sent via e-mail, I was immediately wondering how HR or a hiring manager would act to an envelope just containing a resume or e-mail with no message and just a resume attached. I am not buying this advice. RELATED: Need some cover letter advice? Watch these tutorials! Moreover, I do not understand how the article arrives at this conclusion either. Less than 100 words into the article, a study is quoted that says “only 18% of managers think cover letters are important.” So it is advisable to eliminate almost 20% of your potential employers without even trying? Plus, while “only” 18% think they are important, there’s no report that only 18% read them. I never put much stock into cover letters, primarily because many of them are poorly written, but I do scan them quickly, and quite regularly I see something valuable. Moreover, there are other supposed reasons for not writing a cover letter. “…a cover letter can only hurt you. Of the hiring managers surveyed, 55% said typos were the biggest turnoff. Why risk a typo when a cover letter is unlikely to help you get the gig?” That logic would also apply to resumes and LinkedIn profiles where typos are equally possible. The final arguments are that interviews are more important than cover letters. That’s a shocker! Wait a minute! I think we already knew that. Resumes are also more important than cover letters. And companies are using other tools including Skype interviews and requests to submit video interviews. All true and rapidly changing the world of hiring. Attempting to identify the single most important element of your career search makes little sense. With organizations of different sizes, different industries, and millions of individual managers’ hiring processes, a job seeker needs to be prepared for multiple strategies. There are even cases where a candidate is not even allowed to submit a cover letter. Online applications processes may allow or require an attached resume but not a cover letter. I believe there are at least four sound arguments for continuing to use a cover letter as part of your career search.