You’ve probably spent hours revamping your resume or may have even sought out a specialist to help you do it. Now comes time for the dreaded cover letter. You’ve been told you should write a cover letter, but where do you start? What do you say and how do you say it? Do hiring managers and recruiters actually read them?  

According to a 2015 study by the Addison Group, only 18% of hiring managers read cover letters. I believe this to be true in large companies, but for small companies, the hiring managers definitely read them. As for recruiters, according to a Jobvite data survey, only 26% of recruiters consider cover letters as important in their decision to hire an applicant.

Based on this information, should you write one?

If a company is asking for a cover letter, then they are probably using it to evaluate your candidacy for the position. Even if your cover letter is not requested, it can be a handy tool to use when you haven’t heard back from the recruiter after applying through the company’s ATS (applicant tracking system) or when you are an unexpected candidate for the position. It gives you an opportunity to provide more context for your application and tell the story of why you are the right person for the job. Cover letters can also be helpful with explaining your situation, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or are seeking a lesser role, and vice versa. 

If you have an email address for a contact within the company, you can send the cover letter as the body of your email and attach your resume. You can also send it to the recruiter or hiring manager through LinkedIn messenger. Even if your cover letter is not read initially, it may be read by the hiring manager or recruiter if your resume makes it to the final stack, so it’s important to craft one that’s eye catching. 

So what do you put on the cover letter to make sure it gets seen?

Address the hiring manager or recruiter directly.

To stand out from the rest of the applicants, start by addressing the hiring manager or recruiter directly. Sometimes this can be hard to discover, but if you network or do some research on LinkedIn, you can probably find out. Addressing the cover letter to “Whom It May Concern” is impersonal and may send the message that you didn’t take the time to learn more about the company and who the position reports to. In worst case scenarios, address the letter to either the “Hiring Manager” or “Recruiter.”

Keep the letter short and to the point.

I’ve seen cover letters that range from half a page to a full page, but it’s best to keep them to the point and not tell your entire career story. One to three paragraphs or even listing a few sentences with bullet points will suffice. Make sure to always include the position you are applying for so there is no guesswork, especially if your cover letter gets separated from your resume (which can and does happen).

Tell them why you are qualified for the job.

Typically what hiring managers want to know is why you are interested in the position, why you think you are qualified, and why they should consider you for the position. It’s the perfect time to point out your accomplishments and show the direct correlation between your skills and what the company needs. Be the problem solver. Remember the company is hiring someone because they have a need or a problem – you are it! So show them that in the letter.

Make the letter specific.

Don’t use the same exact letter for multiple jobs and companies. It is easy to tell when a candidate just copies and pastes. Tailor your letter to this specific company and role. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know why you’re the right person for the job but also why you want to work at this particular company and in this particular job so they feel confident you will accept an offer if given one and will be an engaged employee.

Double Check For Errors.

No one’s perfect, but your resume and cover letter must be error-free. If you do have an error and notice it afterwards, don’t panic. If you have multiple typos, then that can definitely be a reason for you to receive a “Thanks, but No Thanks” letter, especially if the position requires a high attention to detail. I’ve actually used cover letters as part of the screening process for evaluating a candidate’s written communication ability, so correct grammar is essential. Always make sure you’re sending the correct cover letter. I’ve received many cover letters indicating a candidate’s interest in a job that didn’t exist at the company. Not to mention, they stated the wrong company and how they desired to work there. Lastly, if you do find the name of the recruiter or hiring manager, double check the spelling of their name. I’ve had a few people send me cover letters addressing me as “Christ.” Although I am Christian, I’m definitely not Him. ALWAYS double or triple-check for errors so that you are presenting yourself in the best possible way.

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If you’re struggling to edit your resume or need help with your cover letter, Ama La Vida offers a Get That Job program that can help you determine your personal branding strategy and create your perfect elevator pitch, which can be used to develop your cover letter. I’d love to work with you to write a stellar, stand-out cover letter, so please feel free to book a free consultation with me here if you are ready to land an exciting new job!

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Christi Doporto

Christi is a former HR exec turned ALV Career Specialist. She specializes in helping clients navigate career transitions and land their dream jobs. You can get to know Christi and book a complimentary consultation with her here: https://alvcoaching.com/team-christi.

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