Why Do You Need a Cover Letter?

Why Do You Need a Cover Letter?

I see hundreds of resumes each month and very few have an actual cover letter attached. Worse yet is that most of the cover letters that do come to me are vary bad. This is such a tragic moment for the job applicant! Even if the resume is good and they know they have the experience and skills to do the job they just missed an important opportunity to rise above everyone else that may be similar.

I’m sorry to think that if you’re sending a bad cover letter you will be better off without one. Although, I don’t want you to not send one because I understand how important and powerful a good cover letter can be. A good or great cover letter can be the extra nudge that will get the recruiter to advance you in the hiring process and even setup an interview.

The whole point of a resume and cover letter is to get you that phone or face to face interview. If you get any sort of interview then to the recruiter you have the basic skills needed to do the job. Interviews are geared to allow the employer to learn how you handle situations, how well you may fit with their office/business culture, and maybe verify a few inconstancies.

If you need some resume tips we can offer you some help!

Don’t Repeat Your Resume

Don’t repeat your resume in your cover letter! Your resume and cover letter are the initial sales call you are sending to a potential employee as you sell yourself to them. Imagine being in a store trying to buy a high priced item. Every time you ask a different question trying to get more info the salesperson repeats the same product facts. Are you going to be happy with the salesperson or the impressed by the product? Of course not! You’re going to get mad and never return to the store every again. This is the same reaction that you “the salesperson” are giving to the recruiter that is trying to (buy) hire you.

Avoid the General or Unprovable

You may think the cover letter is the time to write about or make a list like:

  • Reliable
  • Never late
  • Team player
  • Friendly
  • Hard working
  • Trusworthly

Do not ever make a list like this on your resume! All these things that may be general or unprovable should never be mentioned on your resume or cover letter directly. The employer has no way to verify these things at this point so you’re wasting valuable space on the page. The interview will prove some of these to the employer and your resume may indirectly prove other things.

If you say you’re friendly this is not provable just because you said so. This recruiter has not met you yet so no trust in your “word” has been built yet. This is like a stranger no the street asking you if they can hold your wallet while you you load your groceries into your car. In most cases you would be nervous about this situation. On the other hand if you had a customer service job for ten years that depended on your ability to relate to people and you left that job on your own accord (not fired) then the recruiter indirectly thinks you may have some people skills and may be friendly.

This situation may work for most of your list above. Staying at a job longer than 1 year shows the recruiter that you may have had the skills and personality for that role. So save space and use the interview to show the recruiter that you are friendly.

Directly Address Required Skills

The list of required skills really is what the employer and recruiter are looking for so address that list in some way. Some skills/education may be obvious on your resume so don’t address those. Some skills may not be so obvious from your resume while others are.

I you had a Reception job for two years then the recruiter instantly gets a basic picture of skills. Answering phones, greeting clients, doing administrative work like typing letters, photo copying, making coffee, and others come to mind. If you also had a specialized task that a normal person at reception may not do like maybe you had to make marketing sales calls selling ad space. If you were applying for Reception role this sales calling skill may not be relevant so maybe you don’t list it on your resume. Suppose the job you’re applying for is a junior sales role? That two years of ad sales experience suddenly becomes important so you should mention that in your cover letter.

Even address the skills they list but you don’t have. It’s better to be honest and show that you are interested in the skill in some way. Simply apologies that you have never had a job officially doing that task but you’re willing to learn and excited about it or maybe you have done some self training so you can mention it there. If you are listing self taught skills then you need to give a little extra proof. “I read a book named…” but only do this if you actually did this. You never want to be caught in a lie.

Indirect Information

The employer or reciter also gets an opportunity to assess your writing skills. Anyone that does not write their own cover letter may be put into an awkward situation if that person gets the job. If you’re expected to write letters or e-mails then someone with low writing skills may be discovered and you may be dismissed if you can’t do the job.

The cover letter also allows you to relay some of your personality. I’m not saying to go overboard with jokes or strange facts! Just give a hint of your humour and professionalism. Remember the idea is that you’re selling yourself to the employer or recruiter. Would you want to spend eight hours a day with some that has no sense of humour? We all want to like the people we spend time with.

Click here to read about the Top 5 Job Search Hints for Albertans.