Composing a lot of cover letters during a job search can be very challenging for job seekers. It takes a great deal of energy and time to tailor a letter specifically for every job they apply to. So, it’s not surprising that applicants often ask if they need to include a cover letter when it is not explicitly required by an employer.
Recently, during my co-op placement at Pivotal Integrated HR Solutions, one of my tasks was to phone screen job seekers to fill a ‘Financial Controller’ and a ‘Shipper/Receiver’ position. For these two job postings, we received various styles of resumes and cover letters. However, not all resumes were accompanied with a cover letter even when the job posting requested a copy.
If the job posting does not request a cover letter then it shouldn’t be there. But if it is mandatory, you should definitely submit one. Otherwise, you risk getting screened out of the process for fear that you can’t follow direction or lack a sense of detail. That being said, our fellow professional Recruiters at Pivotal concur that typically, resume reviewers never spend more than a few minutes reading the cover letter so there’s no need to obsess over it. There is also no standard approach to crafting the perfect cover letter, so use your own judgment.
So do cover letters really give a job seeker an advantage?
In my opinion, a well written cover letter could certainly give you an edge, but it could also fall flat if not presented effectively. I do agree, writing a cover letter is a subtle way to introduce yourself, convey your personality, and most importantly, impress a hiring manager with your experience and writing skills.
If I am covering, what should the length of my cover letter be?
Keep it short and sweet. Today, job seekers are aware and concerned about burdening busy Recruiters with a letter when it’s not requested. Therefore, ensure your letter is concise and that those few statements you make convey something significant about your candidacy.
Where should your cover letter appear if you include one?
A fellow colleague and Recruiter at Pivotal recommends including your letter in the actual text of your e-mail message or place it above your résumé in the attachment. If you put it in a separate attachment from your résumé, you run the risk that a hiring manager will not review it.
Have you ever used a T-style cover letter?
If you really want the job, why chance it? Although many people don’t initially read cover letters, once you are short listed there is a much greater chance it will get looked at.
To make your cover letter more impactful, college career centres, government funded employment centres and private outplacement programs encourage the use of the ‘T-style’ cover letters. T-Style cover letters incorporate two columns; the one on the left is titled “What You’re Seeking” (Employer’s Job Requirements) and the column on the right is titled “How My Skills Match” (Job Seeker’s Qualifications). The job seeker then draws a parallel with his/her expertise vis-a-vis the job requirement. This format is visually very interesting and tells a hiring manager at a glance whether this individual is a good fit. Additionally, it saves time and is very effective when done well. Here’s a link to the ‘T’ Style Cover Letter Template.
Without a doubt, writing cover letters is a dreadful task. If the same information is presented on the resume, what’s the point? So, the job seekers end up re-hashing the same old cover letter they’ve done for every employer they applied to, to save time and energy. It’s no wonder most cover letters are ineffective and uninspiring.
Over to you now
If you’re a job seeker, we understand your frustration. But perhaps you have a different point of view and achieved success with a well crafted cover letter? Let us know in the comments, or take just 1 minute to answer our survey.
If you’re an employer, we’d love to hear from you too. Do you read cover letters or are they a thing of the past? Let us know in the comments, or answer our very short survey.