One of the most common questions I get from young job seekers is “Should I submit a cover letter with my résumé?” Well, the answer is that it depends. If the job posting specifically requests a cover letter, then by all means submit one. However, if there’s no request, spend your efforts on tailoring your résumé for the position you’re applying for.
You see, the truth about cover letters is most recruiters normally don’t read them. We focus the bulk of our time reviewing your résumé. But on the other side of the coin, there are some instances when cover letters are useful to recruiters and hiring managers.
Cover letters can be a good litmus test of a candidate’s writing abilities if the position calls for strong written communication skills. Cover letters are often assessed in lieu of a writing sample. So again, look for this information in the job posting and act accordingly.
Should the job du jour call for a cover letter, stick to the facts and keep it simple and brief. The cover letter doesn’t need to be a synopsis of your resume. Instead, it should focus on the following:
• The position you’re applying for.
Make sure you mention the position title and requisition number if you know it. Also mention where you saw the posting: on the company website, monster.com, your school’s career center…you get the gist.
• The top two or three qualifications you bring to the position.
Again, you don’t need to summarize your entire resume in the cover letter. Succinctly talk about a few skill sets or accomplishments that would be an asset to the job in a few bullet points.
• Why your skills are a fit for the position.
This is your opportunity to say in a few short sentences what you bring to the table and show you understand something about the role.
• Your interest in speaking with someone further about the position.
Let the reader know you’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with them personally about the role and your qualifications. Make certain to include your phone number so the reader knows where to reach you.
• An offering of thanks to the reader for his/her time and consideration.
Manners go a long way in the consideration process. So follow your mother’s advice and always say thank you.
Yolanda M. Owens is the award-winning author of “How to Score a Date with Your Potential Employer” and CEO of Straight No Chaser, LLC, which offers college speaking services and career coaching for students and recent grads entering the workforce. Yolanda has been a College Recruiting Specialist for over 15 years managing internship and entry-level talent recruiting programs at Fortune 500 companies such as Bausch & Lomb, Ernst & Young, The Washington Post, Freddie Mac and AOL. As a speaker and career coach, she uses her candid sense of humor and unconventional style to bring young professionals a fresh, relatable view into the corporate world by paralleling job seeking to the dating process. Yolanda also uses her recruiting knowledge to give GenY an insider’s look at what companies seek in young, potential candidates. Yolanda has been quoted as a top recruiting expert and contributing writer for various publications including USA Today, The Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, The Ladders and CBS News. Yolanda is originally from western New York where she attended St. Bonaventure University. Yolanda welcomes connections on Twitter, through her website or on her Facebook Fanpage.