Jobseekers are told to attach a cover letter when applying to jobs. But, is there any value in it anymore? Or, should you just skip this step and move on? Here is what recruiters and hiring managers want you to know if you are going to spend the time to submit the cover letter.

Cover Letters Can Hurt Your Application

A cover letter can actually hurt your application for the job. How is that even possible? Recruiters are smart and they see a lot. They can also tell that you are not a fit for the company culture based on your cover letter. So, here are the biggest mistakes to avoid to prevent your cover letter from hurting your application:

*Repeating Your Resume. The recruiter and hiring manager already have the resume. They will read the cover letter to find information that they can't get from the resume. So, merely repeating the resume on the letter will turn them off.

*Too Long. People skim your resume and won't always read the cover letter. So, keep this in mind and write to the audience that is SKIMMING your letter. Submit multiple pages for your letter and it will be ignored.

*Using a Generic Letter. Everyone can tell that you are using the same letter for every job. This will waste your time and that of the audience. Adapting it, even if only a minor bit, will go a long way.

*Getting the Facts Wrong. This is huge! Mistaking who the company is or what they do will definitely ruin your application. Make sure to do your research so that the cover letter doesn't hurt your application.

*Grammatical or Spelling Errors. This will kill any job application. It seems obvious, but it happens more than it should. Make sure you pay special attention to spelling and grammar errors as well as typos before submitting.

Don't Waste the Reader's Time

The hiring manager or recruiter will read a cover letter because they want more information about your application. Make sure that you address those questions in your cover letter.  Here are the things to do to make sure that your cover letter stays effective:*Treat it like a written interview. Your cover letter is your first impression. Ensure that it creates the right message for you. Provide a preview of what you want to cover in the interview.

*Treat it like a written interview. Your cover letter is your first impression. Ensure that it creates the right message for you. Provide a preview of what you want to cover in the interview.

*Include specific references. At a minimum, this is the job title and company information. But, it can mean more specific details about the company, the product, or the team.

*Clarity. Use strong language in your sentences to highlight your strengths with focus on your core message.

*Create a Connection. Use the opportunity to tell your story in a way that people can understand and appreciate in a professional, thoughtful way.

*Provide Examples. Provide relevant examples of your successes and qualifications that relate back to the job or company that are considering your application.

*Keep it Short. Do not provide unnecessary details in your cover letter! Keep them short, sweet, clear, concise, and informative.

Answer the Obvious Questions

No one is perfect. The cover letter can be a great way to tell your story proactively to address some of the obvious questions or reservations that an employer may have about you as a candidate. Here are some of the things that can be effectively addressed in the cover letter:

*Qualifications. Your resume may not show that you are obviously qualified for the job. Use the cover letter to explain exactly how you meet those minimum qualifications of the position as it is outlined in the job description.

*Gaps in your resume. People take time off for different reasons. Use the cover letter to explain why you did if it helps your application or is part of your story.

*Lack of experience. Use a positive frame to connect the experience you do have with the experience that is required. Make the connection for the recruiter and hiring manager as they won't always see it.

*Mistakes. People get fired or downsized all the time. Address the issue if it makes sense for your application on the cover letter to avoid wasting your time in an interview that can't go anywhere.

A cover letter needs to stay concise. So, you will never be able to answer all of the obvious questions. But, you can use the opportunity to be strategic about answering the most important questions about your application. No cover letter will be perfect, but you can use it as a preview of those answers to create the opportunity for a conversation.

Why is All that Matters

The reason a recruiter or hiring manager will read your cover letter is because they want to know why? Why are you applying to this job at this company and why are you a fit for it? This is a tough question that can take some serious time to answer fully. However, the reader is skimming your cover letter when they read it. So, here is what you need to do to effectively answer this critical question:

*Change. Address why you want to make the change now. This is always on the minds of the recruiters. It's less of an issue post-pandemic, but it is still a question.

*Company. Articulate clearly why you want to work at this company. What is it about the organization that is of interest to you? Why is it a better fit than where you are now?

*What do you bring to the table? It may not be obvious in skimming your resume. Use the cover letter to explain why your skills are a good match for the company if you get this job.

*Why you? You don't know the specific competition, but you can answer the question of why they should hire you. Or, at least give a preview in the cover letter to that question so that you can get the interview.

Cover letters can matter, sometimes. You won't always know when the cover letter matters or how they will be viewed by the audience. So, it is important to make sure that the message is focused on what matters. Keep your letter relevant and use it to answer the obvious questions that most people will have when skimming your resume. For many, this can make or break your job application.


Not sure how your cover letters or resume are viewed? Get a free analysis of your cover letter by our team of professional cover letter writers. Submit it here.

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