November 16 2016

To Cover Letter or Not To Cover Letter…

HR, Experience What's Next

Experience What’s Next – monthly tips from our HR Department. Join us on LinkedIn for more!

MaryJo Loparco, Talent Acquisition Director

Every recruiter has an opinion on the value of a cover letter. Just recently, my team and I were preparing a presentation for a crop of millennial marketing creatives. As we discussed its content, the subject of cover letters came up.

Do you want your applicant to include a cover letter or not?

Julie, VP, Talent + Properties: Yes. Cover letters are like a final hurdle. It shows me how badly someone wants the job.

Kierra, Talent Acquisition Recruiter: No. We’re all processing applications at a rapid pace and unfortunately, attention spans are short.

Mary, Talent Acquisition Manager: No. Many times cover letters are done so poorly that they end up hurting a candidate’s chances rather than helping them.

MJ, Talent Acquisition Director: Yes! Cover letters speak to certain character traits – self-motivated, creative and thoughtful – all pluses in my book.

Laura, Talent Acquisiton Associate: No. It’s nice to see someone put in the effort to write a cover letter, but I rarely read them.

Five preferences from two completely different generations. And the trend continued when we surveyed our peers across the industry. 55% of survey respondents like to receive a cover letter as part of a candidate’s application. 45% do not. 29% believe a strong cover letter can increase someone’s chances of being hired. 29% do not. 42% think it depends.

So – what’s an applicant to do?

Write one anyway. Chances are you don’t know if the recruiter reviewing your application is for or against cover letters. In a competitive talent pool, the risk from leaving one out isn’t worth it. Cover letters can be a valuable asset in helping you stand out amongst the hundreds of candidates in a very competitive talent pool if done right.

The key is taking your time to compose a thoughtful and compelling narrative on why you want a job with the company you’re applying for. Here’s how:

Say something important and different. Do more than reiterate your resume. This is your chance to creatively set yourself apart from the rest of the field.

Customize the language. A one size fits all approach is a missed opportunity. Tailor your cover letter for the company and the position specifically.

Keep it short (and impactful). Recruiters should be able to be read your cover letter in 30 seconds or less, which requires some serious editing. Think of your cover letter as a formal personal statement and explanation of your skills at 30K ft.

Proofread. Typos and grammar mistakes are always a deal breaker. So edit, proofread and edit again.

What do you think about cover letters? Take our survey and feel free to send your questions and comments at inquiries@octagon.com.

MJ


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