The Differences Between Cover Letters To Hiring Managers And Headhunters

cover letter recruiter hiring manager differencesA reader asks, "What are the differences between a cover letter to a recruiter and one to a hiring manager? Do you make the same points?" Good question, the simple answer is that while the overall structure and intent of the letter is the same:

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  • Sell to the customer's needs as you understand them
  • 2-5 paragraphs
  • For a printed document never more than one page
  • For an email the same points apply, with your strongest selling points visible on the initial screen view of the page, with minimal scrolling beyond
  • Legible 11or 12 point sans serif font (the font has none of those touchy-feely curlicue touches that only Kindergarten teachers are authorized to use)

A hiring manager has one very specific set of needs and the better you can understand those stated needs, and what is behind them, the more effectively your cover letter can speak to your ability to address them successfully. When you do this, it will establish relevance, arouse interest and build a bridge for two professionals to discuss a common interest.

Writing to a headhunter is a more complex issue. S/he represents a range of hiring managers and their interests, and is also keeping an eye out for interesting candidates for a wide range of past and potential future clients.

Many times when you will write to headhunters with no job opening in mind, but because they specialize in your profession/work. You hope they will introduce you to companies and hiring managers of whom you have never heard.

In these instances you obviously cannot sell yourself to one specific set of needs. Instead you will...

  • Introduce yourself as someone qualified for a certain type of job
  • Address the skills and capabilities you bring to that work
  • Identify the industries in which you have experience
  • Identify the types of companies in which you have worked and been successful

If you are writing to a headhunter about one particular opening, you can address it in the same way as you would with a hiring manager. However, if you have a range of skills that qualify you for other openings, it would be wise in a closing sentence to reference that wider range of skills and to which jobs they might apply they might apply.

Next: Should You Consider 'Reinventing' Yourself Today For Tomorrow's Jobs?

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Martin Yate


Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.

Within the profession he has a global reputation as the thought leader on job search and career management issues. He has lectured on four continents and has maintained a coaching practice since 1991.

The current recession is the 5th he has helped people navigate over the last 30 years.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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