What is the value of a cover letter?
Posted by PointA_PointB on May 28, 2010
My friend asked me last night what I suggested that clients do about cover letters. My friend is a HR professional so he has been on the receiving end of cover letters and admitted that he mostly didn’t read them. I think that 80-90 percent of cover letters do not get read, however, the 10-20 percent that do get read may be carefully evaluated. I had an interview once where the hiring manager discussed my cover letter with me point by point – but this is very rare.
I view the cover letter as a necessary evil and think it is something that a candidate, for the most, can’t ignore. (Electronic portal submissions may be the exception.) Most often I suggest that a candidate have a stock cover letter ready to go with two sentences that get customized for the opportunity. I always recommend that resumes stay static although a candidate may have a few static resumes targeted for different positions.
However, when your qualifications may not be completely obvious to a reader, this is one situation when I think it is important to write a detailed cover letter with breadcrumbs that lead the reader to the conclusion that you want them to reach. It is important to remember that the first reader/screener may be a junior person who is not completely familiar with the position or the skills needed to be successful. If you are looking to get a completely different kind of job or to change industries, I think it is important to specifically map your current skills to the skills you think will be needed in the new position. It can be a time-consuming process, but I think it is worth it.
I would love to hear about what you have experienced regarding cover letters. Please feel free to post a comment and share.