I’m not going to be the Career Coach who tells you that cover letters are the best thing ever and you have to send one off to everyone. No way! Not me! I am going to teach you how to write a cover letter – while we both just admit right now that cover letters suck.
The simple fact is that most applicants don’t write a great letter. Someone way back when decided that to apply for a job, the cover letter should be bland and generic. Then someone told applicants the cover letter should be unique, engaging, special, over the top, sales-y. What that conflicting advice resulted in, was a letter that is either so boring a recruiter doesn’t bother reading it, or so over the top that the reader questions the abilities and sanity of the applicant.
Yes and no. When I was recruiting I would simply skip the cover letter and read the resume. If I liked what I saw in the resume, I would go back and read the cover letter. If the cover letter spoke to me in some way, I would definitely reach out. If the cover letter was generic or did not match the job, more than likely that candidate got passed over. If the resume was bad, I never made it to the cover letter in the first place.
If you Google “Does Anyone Read Cover Letters,” it’s a little bleaker than when I ran my desk. It’s an individual choice for recruiters, and some companies do not even require them any more. The general take is that recruiters are not opening the attachments or even reading the letters.
That said, there is one person in the hiring panel that almost always reads the cover letter, and they are important!
We write cover letters for hiring managers, small business owners, and those who are in lower volume hiring situations. We don’t write them for recruiters or applicant tracking systems. I also want to qualify that there are some jobs where your cover letter and proof of your writing skills are essential: teaching, sales, public relations, marketing, and anything that is media or communication based. The application process for these jobs often includes writing samples and they responses are heavily weighted taking the writing portion into account.
That brings us back to the topic at hand:
This is something you definitely want to think about. Do you have the direct email address of the hiring manager or recruiter? Do you have a generic email box you are responding to vs. applying online?
If you are sending a direct email, DO NOT PUT YOUR COVER LETTER AS AN ATTACHMENT! The body of your email is your cover letter. There is no need to have a second attachment.
Given the choice, the only document that gets opened is your resume. That’s it.
Now, you get writing. I know it’s tough, but the best cover letter is going to come from you and it will need to written for each position you apply for. No generic cover letter where you change a few things in the first paragraph is going to help you stand out.
The last bit of “best advice” I can give you is, just get writing. Start your internet research with a pad right next to you and jot down anything that is interesting. People, products, press… whatever stands out where you have a connection, that is what you write about.
Just. Start. Writing!
KDB Coaching can be hired to write your resume or Linked In profile, but when it comes to cover letters, the only way these work is for it come from your heart, your passion, and your interest. We are more than happy to offer editing and support, but the next great cover letter can only come from you.
If you need more persuasion, here are some of the best cover letter blogs I’ve come across and continue to suggest in my talks and coaching sessions: