Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” The same hold true for cover letters – whether you send one or not, you are right, or maybe! It is quite common to hear that 50 per cent of recruiters and hiring managers do not read cover letters; they go straight to the resume. Because of this, many job seekers just submit a résumé. Or, an ad asks to ‘fax your résumé’ and the job seeker faxes only the résumé. They rarely think about the other 50 per cent of recruiters who do read cover letters.
I advise job seekers to always include a cover letter. It’s better to include one and it’s not read than to omit it, and it misses the eyes of the other 50 per cent who do read them.
Recently, I was reading a blog post about cover letters in the Harvard Business Review, and the conversation was centred around cover letters! Should one be included with the résumé? This post garnered a lot of responses for and against. The writer, David Silverman, said that there were really only a few times to use a cover letter:
- When you know the name of the person hiring
- When you know something about the job requirement
- When you’ve been personally referred (which might include 1 and 2)
While most people agreed with the three reasons he stated, many of us were not impressed with the letter he quoted as being “The best cover letter I ever received.” It was no different, in my opinion, from a generic cover letter addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam”.
That said, one comment that got my attention was from a hiring manager. He was responding to comment by another individual, and wrote , “I would have to respectfully disagree with the comment that cover letters are a waste of time. A succinct, well-written cover letter that is laser-targeted to my specific job opening is rare and really gets my attention. And this is the real secret: the cover letter HAS to be well-written and it HAS to be targeted to my specific opening.”
I couldn’t have said it better: “A succinct, well-written cover letter that is laser-targeted to my specific job opening is rare and really gets my attention.” In a survey I conducted recently with Canadian HR managers and recruiters, thirty eight percent (38.1%) said candidates must submit a cover letter for each application while thirty percent (30.2%) had no preference. Approximately sixteen percent (15.9%) said they could be useful for information not included on the resume if they add value.
What are your thoughts? Is there value in a cover letter? Join the debate by commenting below: