The Real Deal with Cover Letters in 2018 and Beyond!
Anytime I have a job opening with our companies, like most companies, I post the position, and potential candidates start submitting resumes. My last job posting was for a sales account manager, and we received 81 resumes. While many of the resumes need much work (read this article for that), most of the cover letters were poorly written or even nonexistent. As a job seeker, this has to change if you want to get a great job.
Your resume and cover letter work as a team. Out of the 81 resumes I received, only 54 job seekers included a cover letter. Not sending a cover letter with your resume is like excluding your picture from your LinkedIn profile. In both instances, a hiring manager is mentally noting that this is strange. It is not a knockout punch, but it certainly adds doubt to your candidacy for an open position. This is real so add a cover letter (and a friendly professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile).
Of the 54 cover letters I did receive, 28 of them were certainly not optimized. The major issues included:
- Cover letters that didn’t even mention the job or company where the position is located.
- A cover letter that was addressed to some other company (no attention to detail).
- Long cover letters (more than three paragraphs) that just rambled. A lot of worthless information and a time waster for an employer.
- Too many people wrote in their cover letter what they are looking for; totally ignoring the fact that the job they are applying to will include these job duties. (This happens all the time).
- The classic typos. Just no excuse for typos but it happens; especially since many online application systems have a separate box to add a cover letter (not a downloaded file). Since this is usually the last step in an application process that could take over an hour. Job seekers make many mistakes here since it requires you to write a meaningful letter to an unknown employer and have no idea what exactly you should be included.
Let’s fix this. Here is what is needed in an optimized cover letter.
- The cover letter is short (two or three paragraphs) and references the exact job you are applying for with the company.
- Let the employer know through keywords used in the job posting why you are good for the job. Talk their language. “I have six years’ experience in sales account management dealing with national accounts with the ability to recognize revenue opportunities. Year after year, I increased my sales by over 73%, and I would like the opportunity to demonstrate how I can do that for your company.”
- Focus on what the employer needs, NOT what you want. The only thing you should have in your cover letter is how you will help their company with the job skills needed to get the job. Sounds simple but the only way to optimize your cover letter is to target the exact job; even if you want the employer to know about all the other skills you have. If you find this challenging, you are applying to jobs that you don’t want.
- Be conversational, not generic. The resume is formal. The cover letter allows you quickly to say hello (Dear Hiring Manager or use an actual name), let them know you are VERY interested in the job and build some excitement for yourself - so they hiring manager sets an interview. Conversational doesn’t mean casual. Please avoid statements like “Hey” and “Hi, HR department!”
- Show enthusiasm. Let the employer know that you have a pulse and they need to meet you. Your keywords relevant to the position will catch their attention. Asking for the interview is very important. “I have done much research on this position and your company and would love the opportunity to interview with the sales department. Looks like a great place to work!”
Take this to heart. Resumes and cover letters are a team. Most hiring managers will not even read your cover letter unless your resume develops interest. If your resume is just average but develops some interest, the cover letter will be the key to getting the interview. Don’t underestimate this and make sure you include a well-written cover letter with every application.