Do Cover Letters Help Get Interviews, Or Are They A Waste Of Time?
At the Secrets & Strategies career management group on LinkedIn this week, they were talking about some jobs guru who claimed cover letters are a waste of time and how you'll get more interviews if you stop using them.
Another authority was cited as saying that hiring managers are peeved when they don't receive cover letters with resumes. Most people expressed confusion and exasperation, so I thought an answer to the dilemma would be useful.
Why cover letters?
A cover letter is designed to help build a bridge between you and a recruiter/hiring manager. Properly done it can get your resume read with serious attention and support the story that resume tells by revealing something more of the professional behind it.
How The Internet Has Changed Recruitment And Job Search
The Internet makes applying for jobs much easier, so much so that uploading your resume into a resume database/Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), has become the default approach to job search. Job hunters now rely more on volume of applications than on the quality of those applications, yet most find this approach ineffective and frustrating.
Do Cover Letters Help Resume Database Performance?
ATS allow recruiters to access resume databases with keyword searches in much the same way as you use a Google search. The resumes with the most keywords, in the right places within the document and used most frequently rise to the top. The recruiter, just like you in a Google search, will probably look at no more than the top 20 results. How you achieve this is another conversation, but a cover letter can help that ranking and certainly will not hurt it.
Recruiters search databases for resumes, not cover letters, so an accompanying cover letter has secondary importance because it will be read only after the resume has been reviewed. But this does not mean that letter cannot increase your visibility through its keyword usage, and your desirability by adding insights additional to the resume.
'Experts' Say Cover Letters Are A Waste Of Time
Their reasoning invariably demonstrates a lack of experience in how recruitment really works and the job search strategies that are likely to be effective in response. Resume databases are commercial enterprises, tailored to the needs of paying customers. If you see one of these options activated...
- A dialog box for inserting a cover letter
- A dialog box requesting a cover letter as part of the application process
- A dialog box demanding a cover letter be part of the application process
- A dialog box requesting specific information as to your suitability
...it means that someone in the selection cycle thinks information in addition to the resume will speed the recruitment process. When a resume database has one of these options, it would be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity to promote yourself.
Because ATS function by tracking keywords, a cover letter with keywords relevant to the job posting can help your resume's ranking, and therefore the likelihood of it being reviewed by a recruiter's eyes, where it becomes an additional argument for your candidacy.
Cover Letters & Direct Approach
The goal of a job search is to be done with it as quickly as possible and you do this by engaging in the job search activities that get you into conversation with the job titles that are in a position to hire you as quickly and as frequently as you possibly can.
I have just completed two weeks of webcasts about how to execute a network integrated job search. We spent over three hours discussing how you integrate networking techniques into every aspect of your job search, so that you can develop the capability to approach, by name, the people who have the authority to hire you.
When you have the ability to approach someone directly involved with the selection cycle by name, not to personalize your resume with a cover letter would be insanity.
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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 http://www.knockemdead.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.