Should I bother?

I get asked all the time, do employers still want cover letters?  Are they passe?  Can’t an employer just look at my LinkedIn profile?  What do I even write?  Have you asked yourself these same questions?

They are good questions to ask.  Here is my take on the current status of cover letters and how to write a good cover letter. The most recent occurrence with cover letters is that most recruiters and hiring teams do not actually read them. The challenge with cover letters in the past has been that they reiterate everything a person has on their resume already.  Recruiters think “why should I bother”?  Recruiters do not want to reread the same content over and over again.

I have seen this happening since the downturn in 2008.  Now that we’re in another economic downturn I suspect that recruiters and hiring teams are less likely to read cover letters again.

But…  for the right position, AKA your dream job, you should write a thoughtful and quality cover letter. Here’s how to do it.

Tell Your Story

The best cover letters tell a story.  The story should go alongside your resume.  Its purpose is to give your resume additional meaning and context.  In the first short paragraph of your cover letter you should state why does this company, that you’re applying to, resonates with you. Have you had interactions with this company? Have you used their product? And if you have, what impressed you?  What interactions with their staff or their product did you experience that so impressed you?  Let the organization know that their mission and culture resonate with you.

This kind of statement and opening will help encourage the reader to continue reading, which is the whole goal. The ultimate goal is to get a call back for an interview.

The middle part of your cover letter should state a couple key of accomplishments that go along with what the company is doing or the job position that you’re applying for. Pick a couple of your accomplishments or projects you have worked on that relate to what this company is looking for in the job posting. The ending part of your letter should be a clear and concise close. “I would like to bring these skills and my passion for your organization to this role. I look forward to speaking with you.”

The suggestions I give are not easy to write but an engaging story shows your connection to that company’s culture.  Connection to their culture and mission will get you a call in for an interview.

I had one such client who told a descriptive story about why he got into Internet security. His family’s identity was hacked when he was in high school. This drove him to learn the impact of identity theft and he became curious about cyber security.  He eventually went to college and finished his degree in this area. In his cover letter he explained his personal story and why he wanted to continue on in cyber security. It was an impactful story and gained him interviews.

You may not have this kind of a deep story but always try and tie in your introduction of who you are, maybe what kind of passion you have, or your personal story to the organization that you’re applying to.

My best advice for writing this kind of cover letter is to give yourself some time and room to write it. Do a first pass then walk away for a couple hours come back read it out-loud.  Edit again. It will take time, but it is well worth it.