Cover Letter Etiquette

When I am working with people that are in a job search, the question of cover letters invariably comes up.  Do the HR people actually read them?  Why should I waste my time doing one?  What does a good one look like? And the list goes on……

The opinions on the value of cover letters vary almost as much as the opinions on a resume.  However, I am definitely in the “pro cover letter” (or “cover email”) camp!  writing_a_cover_letter_0

True, many people won’t read them.  Especially in larger companies that use applicant tracking systems that parse key words and often separate the cover letter from the resume.  However, if you are applying to a position through an email, even a generic sounding one like “Careers@YourNextEmployer.com”, having a few sentences that are custom written to the position and company can really make you stand out.  Especially since 95% of the other applicants aren’t doing it.

It is fine to be efficient and have a standard paragraph that describes your key qualities and why someone should hire you.  But also add at the beginning 1-2 sentences around why you are interested in the particular company, and reference the particular position to which you are applying and how you are a great fit for it.  This shows that you are truly interested and care.  You can also use the cover letter to address any significant issues up front, like if you are way overqualified, or you are trying to make a career transition into this field, you are doing a remote search, etc.  While there is no guarantee that a cover letter will land you your next opportunity, it can be a very effective tool that will help you stand apart from the field.

Good luck!

Advice from Amy Cell, President and Chief Matchmaker at Amy Cell, LLC. For more employment resources click here.

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