By Charlotte Weeks
Executive-level clients frequently ask me if they need cover letters. They’re not convinced anyone reads them, and they often wonder if writing them is worth the time and effort. These concerns are not completely unfounded. About one-third of hiring managers will never look at a cover letter, another one-third will go back and look after reading the resume, and the final one-third will go through the resume IF the cover letter catches their attention. Since you don’t know which category the reader will fall into, it’s best to play the odds and include a well-written one. Even if these statistics convince people they need a cover letter, they’re still not sold on the fact that it should be a good one. I’m here to convince you otherwise! Consider the following:
1) Applicant Tracking Systems search cover letters. Keywords are terms that companies use to automatically screen candidates when they receive hundreds of resumes. The cover letter gives you an additional opportunity for including potential keywords.
2) In a situation where there are multiple candidates for each job, it’s to your advantage to use any edge you can.
3) Personal stories can make a difference. If you strongly believe in an organization’s mission, and you don’t bring this out in the cover letter, you could be missing an opportunity. Especially in associations, leaders look for candidates who believe in their cause. In fact, Michelle Obama ultimately got her job with the City of Chicago after Valerie Jarrett (the hiring manager) was moved by her cover letter.
Though writing a powerful cover letter takes time, it may not be as much as you thought. They should just be one page and “less is more” – 3 to 4 paragraphs is all you need. Plus, once you have your first letter written, you should only need to customize a few sentences for each new position.