Cover Letter Trends & Tips

As promised in my previous post, this one will touch on cover letter trends and tips you might find useful. Some of the information–and any quotes–come from the Career Thought Leaders 2011 Career Brainstorming Day white paper mentioned previously. The idea is to get you thinking about cover letter issues that are fairly new or emerging as possible trends.

Debate About Cover Letters–Are They Read?

From the brainstorming sessions and from other reading I’ve done, it’s clear there’s far from a consensus on whether or not cover letters get read and, if so, by whom. One source said that “easily 50% of hiring decision-makers no longer read cover letters–a stark change from even a few years ago. Why? Decision-makers are very busy, and the cover letter no longer generates the same compelling interest as does the resume.” On the other hand, some people claim that corporate recruiters almost never read cover letters while hiring managers do.

So whom do you believe? My opinion is that unless you see a clear reason not to provide a cover letter with your resume, a well-written letter can’t hurt and might help strengthen your candidacy. If, for example, you have someone inside the company hand-carrying your resume to the hiring manager, a cover letter probably isn’t necessary. However, if you don’t have someone and you want to give yourself every possible advantage against the competition, sending a well-thought-out cover letter might be the factor that tips the scales in your favor–not to land you the job but to help you secure an interview.

If you’re submitting via email, as is often the case these days, you might create a really good email cover note rather than a more formal letter. Just don’t toss one together as if it didn’t matter, which is all too easy for people to do with email. Put as much care into it as you would a traditional cover letter.

Cover Letters: What’s New and Next

We sometimes use what’s called pull quotes (brief testimonials) in resumes to distinguish the individual from his/her competition and drive a key point home to employers. One possible trend is to adapt this technique to cover letters. Why? “Testimonials added to cover letters provide a strong third-party endorsement.” If you’re wondering where you can get a good quote to use, take a look at your LinkedIn recommendations. (You do have some, don’t you?) One of them might add impact and value to your cover letter.

Because so much communication is done electronically now, you might try something that seems a bit archaic but is being used effectively by some job seekers: Create a traditional paper cover letter and send it by postal mail (inelegantly referred to by some as “snail mail”). You might even try hand-addressing the envelope, so it doesn’t look as if it came from a computer that was spitting out hundreds of them. “The sheer novelty of the approach may draw positive attention.”

Essential Cover Letter Content

If you do nothing else in your cover letter, it’s essential that you speak to the self-interest of the employer–how you can help the company succeed. If you don’t do that, the rest won’t matter.

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