Monday, February 7, 2011

New Cover Letter Strategy

Are hiring managers, human resources associates, and recruiters actually reading your cover letter?  The cover letter is a tremendously critical tool in your job search arsenal - if you don't capture the reader's attention in this document then the hours you have poured into creating an awesome resume will have been a waste of time!

Over the past several months, I have been experimenting with a new cover letter strategy.  This isn't something I just made up - it's based on research from all the top pros in human resources and job search strategists.

Let's discuss first some points that cover letters should not be:
Bored manager - Reading your cover letter!
  • Long, overly wordy, boring
  • Filled with irrelevant information
  • Impersonal
  • Typos, incorrect grammar, spelling, or otherwise poorly written
  • Non existent - no cover letter accompanies the resume
A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of 542 human resources professionals discovered: (1)
Boring cover letter file
  • 23% of respondents removed applicants from consideration if letters were longer than 1 page.
  • 83% of respondents reported the average length of time they spent reading a cover letter was one minute or less.
  • 69% of the HR professionals prefer personalized cover letters.
  • 14% of respondents stated that if they receive a cover letter of poor quality, the candidate is eliminated as a possibility.
  • 76% said typos in cover letters would cause them to remove the applicant from the pool of possible candidates.
  • 28% of respondents said they will not consider a resume if a cover letter did not accompany it.

Okay, so you can tell I love statistics!  But the point is - the cover letter, its content, and quality are vital in your successful job search.  Are you harming yourself by not including a cover letter or could you be putting yourself out of the running for jobs you want and are qualified for because your cover letter isn't top notch? 

The majority of the HR professionals surveyed spent less than one minute reading the cover letter to decide if it would be worth their time to review your resume. The reality is that employers are overwhelmed with applicants in this job market.  It's likely that cover letters aren't getting read because they are too long, too self-absorbed, too form letter-ish, and just too boring.

The cover letters I had been writing - for myself and my clients - averaged about 250 words.  These were great quality letters; however the new strategy I am using cuts the length by nearly 50% and averages only 119 words!  I can be a pretty wordy talker, but even I know that sometimes less actually says more.  It's a perfect length for email as the reader doesn't have to scroll excessively to read the whole letter.

So what should a cover letter be?
  • Succinct with only crucial, relevant information - remember they are spending less than 1 minute reading it!
  • It should let the employer know what's in it for them - how they will be able to recoup their investment in hiring you.
  • Include 1-2 points that "prove" you will bring value to their firm.
  • Customized and targeted to the job to which you're submitting it.
  • Use a call to action - take initiative and let the hiring manager know when you will contact them.
  • Well written, correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, no types, well-formatted.

It boils down to qualifications and quality of your job acquisition tools.  Whether you are pursuing jobs at the $30,000 salary level or $300,000 level - it is well worth the small investment to hire a resume / job search consultant to ensure you have the best possible tools in your arsenal.  You have less than 60 seconds to make an impression - what kind of impression do you want to make?

Contact a professional resume / job search consultant today!



Ramsey Penegar is an executive resume & job search consultant and is certified by the Professional Association of Resume Writers.  She has developed more than 700 resumes for executives all over the United States and for international clients as well.  With more than 10 years experience in marketing and sales, she has the skills to build effective job search marketing campaigns and attention-getting resumes and cover letters.


(1) Survey Stats thanks to http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-what-employers-want-in-a-cover-lette.html#ixzz1DDB2IVpB

4 comments:

  1. Here are a few cover letter examples for job seekers' references. These are live examples, however all names are dummies. These letters have one thing in common - they all generated interviews and some candidates were being hired. federal cover letter

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  2. Tks very much for your post.

    Cover letters are the first chance you have to impress an employer – they're not just a protective jacket for your CV. Here's our guide on what to include and how to format them

    The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.

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