The world of job seekers is deeply divided over the subject of cover letters. Some say they are a waste of time, others say they are a valuable tool. So which is it? It’s really both! Any given cover letter may be completely ignored or it may be the piece that gets you noticed and in the door.
Many companies use software to screen resumes. This software tends to focus on key words in resumes. In many (but not all) cases, the software ignores cover letters. Despite that, a cover letter is still important. Even if you are sure a company uses software and only software to screen resumes, you can’t be sure a cover letter will be ignored. Some programs scan cover letters as well as resumes, for key words. Other programs file the cover letter where a hiring manager may read it. Do you really know the company well enough to be certain there is no point in a good cover letter?
Secondly, not all companies use software to screen candidates. Especially at smaller companies, cover letters are still at least glanced at. Of course they are not the formal introduction they once were. But there are still hiring managers who take them seriously. Do you really know the taste and preference of the person receiving your materials well enough to ignore the possibility that he or she may be a cover-letter-lover?
The bottom line is better safe than sorry. Include a cover letter. Learn how to craft a good quickly following these guidelines:
- Be concise: Keep it to three short paragraphs
- Customize it to the position, company and if possible hiring manager
- Bring out your match to job requirements
- Show enthusiasm and fit for company and job
- Introduce your personal brand (your promise of value and what makes you different)
- Make it perfect. Double check for errors and have someone else proof it if necessary.
Your cover letter may be ignored. But your cover letter may just be the thing that gets the hiring manager to give you a closer look. It’s worth your time to try.