Ask any number of recruiters and hiring managers what percentage of resumes are bad and just listen to their responses. I once spoke at a local Leadership Event for young professionals and the emcee said “99.5% of all resumes are bad; and the “point 5” is generous”! So just imagine what the cover letters look like.
Do you know what percentage of cover letter are actually read?
I have a theory, no proof, no stats and no numbers but, I believe that your cover letter will be read if your resume is attractive. Think about it for a moment, if you have an attractive resume that clearly demonstrates that you take your career seriously and have invested in your credentials, a recruiter/hiring manager is more likely to be curious about the cover letter and the LinkedIn profile too. It’s a complete and total resume branding package.
Here are a few tips that I use with my resume clients. When creating your cover letter don’t simply rehash the information on your resume. Break your cover letter into 3 paragraphs.
Why are you interested in this position? Try to give the reader some quick information about you, why you are interested in the job, why you are interested in the company and how you can make an immediate impact. Here’s an example, “I have over 5 years of experience in Supply Chain Logistics with an industry leader and I am currently looking for opportunities to contribute and develop with a great company, like yours.” (something like that)
Also use the cover letter to explain any gaps in employment or if you are changing careers (transitioning) the cover letter is a great way to tell your story – why you are changing careers? What has brought you to this new direction?
What or why do you enjoy this career? It’s okay to say you like your job or you enjoy doing what you do. This second paragraph is where you get a little personal but not too much. Companies want to hire happy and engaged workers. Companies understand that people quit their jobs because of co-workers or the boss, not the job itself. So, if you like your job but just need a new change of pace, it’s okay to say that and it’s useful information!
Don’t beg. Hey look, we all have responsibilities in life. We all need jobs but when asked about your qualifications you should never mention your bills or personal family situation because you don’t want to come across as someone who is trying to manipulate the reader.
The last paragraph should be short and sweet – basically wrapping up the cover letter. In this paragraph there should something letting the reader know your excitement for the opportunity interview and speak with them. You can even add a line about your references, yeah, that’s right, your references. Something like this, “One of my former managers, Clyde Drexler, has said he enjoyed working with me while at EMC Corporate and it was a pleasure to watch me develop into a great talent and leader. He is just one of my professional references.”
What if there is no story to tell?
What if you’ve done the same thing for 15 years and you just want to keep working? Well, get creative and explain what you like or love about your career. Write about the job itself and your qualifications but then impress the reader with a little bit of flattery, for instance, “After reading several other job ads and researching your company, I felt EMC was the best for my future career goals.”
You can be even more specific, “I really like the current employee testimonies on your career page.” Or “EMC has an excellent reputation in the community and I would love to be a part of your team.”
Ultimately, you have to be comfortable and clear about your career goals and value. Once you know what you bring to the table you will be able to create a cover letter that will be read.
Chris Fields is a frequent contributor to CareerCloud and runs ResumeCrusade. Hit him up if you need a resume.