In offering some advice today to a family member who is job hunting, I came to the realization that the cover letter is all but dead. The family member’s query was how to write a compelling/ interesting cover letter because he was looking to find ways to get his resume noticed by the hiring managers.
His inquiry wasn’t a bad one – he wanted his resume to stand out against the rest. It’s no secret that hiring/HR managers see hundreds of resumes per opening and only a small percentage of them ultimately get considered. So as such, candidates want their resumes to stand out and show how they are best for the position. As a result you type a letter in an attempt to set yourself apart from the other applicants.
On top of the vast competition of applicants, there is also the resume itself. I have heard many reasons for resumes to be declined by hiring managers – anything from spelling errors to poor formatting. Forget about whether you think you have the technical skills or not, the way your resume looks can determine your future employment opportunities. All of these factors result in why so many people put such a high emphasis on the cover letter.
Candidates realize the resume is your first impression. You are making an attempt at setting yourself apart and explaining why they should consider you. As such, the cover letter becomes that outlet to make that impression.
We live in a social media world where 140 characters is the max attention our brain can offer. Consequently hiring managers would like to decide if you are a fit as quickly as possible. A study by The Ladders revealed that on average recruiters review resumes for about 6.25 seconds before determining if you are a fit. A cover letter unfortunately does not fit into this equation. While I am sure the candidate spent a good amount of time preparing what they would like to say, cover letters get skimmed over with little to no interest. The other issue adding to this is not personalizing cover letters. Too many times I have received a cover letter that looks like it has been copied, pasted and sent to roughly 15 different jobs without personalization. Nothing shows a lack of preparation more than this.
I have been in the recruiting industry for close to 7 years. I do not have the exact numbers, but in that time I must have submitted thousands of candidates to my client’s requirements. And although I do not have the precise stats, I do know this much; of all the candidates to get hired by my clients through me, I have never submitted one with a cover letter. I send my clients a copy of the candidates resume and put together an email that highlights their experience and how it relates to the position.
That is what I recommend to individuals who ask for advice when job hunting. It’s not enough to simply apply for a position in today’s society. You must get direct contact to separate yourself from the herd. That is the beauty of sites such as LinkedIn. In the past the hiring manager was a mysterious figure behind a job ad. Now you can pull up a posting on LinkedIn, and not only is the poster right there for you, there are even suggestions on how you could be connected with them.
It is on you as a candidate to find that person and reach out to them. The recruiting and staffing industry is a multi-billion dollar business, because ultimately the hiring process is a personal experience. So rather than putting your effort into a cover letter, find that persons email address and put together a personalized message on why you are applying and a fit for the position. It doesn’t have to be too long, just give the person a reason to spend more than 6.25 seconds on your resume.