Posted By Amanda Collins on March 1, 2010
At an HR forum I attended this weekend, three of the four HR panelists confirmed what I have known for a long while – most hiring managers don’t read cover letters. I remember when I was in that position I didn’t read the letters either. In fact, very few people even bothered to submit cover letters, as these panelists also confirmed. So what’s the point? Why do professionals still suggest job seekers include cover letters?
A cover letter is your handshake, a warm introduction instead of just jumping in with, “Can I have a job?” It’s a way to pull out the most important parts in your résumé, be more conversational, and possibly cover things you can’t in your résumé, which is a more formal document. In your letter, pronouns can sneak in, and with them, personality! You can also tell the reader how you heard about the position, especially if you were referred by a friend or colleague.
If you choose to use a cover letter (and I’m going to be a proponent until I die), make sure it’s personalized. You shouldn’t have it addressed to “To Whom It May Concern” or – worse yet – “Dear Sirs.” Look up the hiring manager’s name on LinkedIn. If you don’t know, at least address the letter to “Hiring Manager” or some appropriate title. Mention the name of the company, position, and how you heard of them. Do a little homework online to see why you’re a fit with the culture or will be able to solve a specific problem confronting the firm. Pull in a few of your major selling points from the résumé as well (aka accomplishments) to really draw attention to your value.
Even though three of the four recruiters didn’t read the cover letter, one did – and one other said he will if he finds something of interest in the résumé. So I’ll continue to advocate for cover letters because you never know who might be reading it.