Hiring managers now use social media and professional networking sites to gather information about applicants, leading some job seekers wondering if writing a cover letter is truly necessary. You might argue that hiring managers can't possibly read every letter they receive, but knowing how to write one is still important.
Career coach Tara Orchard says job seekers should always write a cover letter, even if they eventually decide not to send it. Writing a concise cover letter helps you organize your thoughts and focus on what you have to offer each employer. If you don't send the cover letter to potential employers, you can still use the text in other ways. Your introductory paragraph might be perfect for your LinkedIn profile, or you may want to use some of the text when corresponding with hiring managers via email. Orchard recommends using a conversational tone to capture attention and establish a rapport with the reader.
If you decide to send a cover letter, spend plenty of time tweaking the content and checking for errors. A good cover letter can help you get to the next step in the hiring process, but a sloppy one can hurt your reputation and ruin your chances of building a relationship with a hiring manager or external recruiter. Before you send a cover letter, make sure all of the information is relevant to the job opening. If you include anecdotes from a job you held 20 years ago, the hiring manager is bound to wonder if your skills are outdated.
You don't want the hiring manager to remember your cover letter because it had a funny typo, but you do need the letter to stand out in some way. Use the job description to find keywords related to the job, and include those keywords throughout your letter. Be careful not to overuse keywords, which can make your letter read like a piece of email spam. Don't use colored paper or showy formatting tricks to make your cover letter stand out. Instead, stick with a common font on a white background.
The cover letter is a great tool for addressing any concerns a hiring manager might have, such as why you might have a two-year employment gap on your resume, for example. Without this explanation, the hiring manager is likely to be concerned about your work history. The content of your letter is up to you, but you should always focus on the positive and write in a way that makes hiring managers want to take a chance on interviewing you.
Just because hiring managers use social media to screen applicants doesn't mean cover letters are a thing of the past. A cover letter is still the best tool available for explaining why you are the best person for a particular job.
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