MENLO PARK, CA — As the job application process increasingly moves online, some job seekers might be tempted to think a formal cover letter is no longer necessary — not so, a new survey shows. Eighty-six percent of executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. Moreover, eight out of 10 (80 percent) managers said it is common to receive electronic resumes accompanied by cover letters.
The study was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. The survey is based on telephone interviews with 150 senior executives from the largest companies in the United States.
Executives were asked, “When evaluating prospective job candidates, how valuable is the cover letter that accompanies the resume?” Their responses:
|Not valuable at all||14%|
Executives also were asked, “When you receive a resume electronically from a job candidate, how common is it for that resume to be accompanied by a letter of introduction or cover letter?” Their responses:
|Not common at all||18%|
“Submitting a resume without a cover letter is like not shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Those who aren’t including cover letters with their resumes are missing an opportunity to make a good first impression and set themselves apart from other job applicants.”
Willmer added, “A cover letter should demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge of the company, highlight applicable skills and work experience, and explain any resume anomalies, such as extended employment gaps.”
OfficeTeam offers the following seven tips to help job seekers develop strong cover letters:
- Name names. Address your letter to the specific hiring manager rather than including a generalized introduction. If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, call the company and ask.
- Do your homework. Research the company online and demonstrate how your knowledge and skills fit the job and could benefit the organization.
- Solve any mysteries. If you have any long employment gaps, explain how you filled the time. Mention professional development courses or volunteer activities that show additional efforts to keep your skills current.
- Leave something for the resume. Limit your cover letter to one page, if printed, or a few paragraphs, if submitted in the body of an e-mail.
- Make a plan. Demonstrate your excitement for the position and conclude by identifying next steps such as, “I’ll follow up with you next week to discuss meeting in person.”
- Read and reread. Just as you would scrutinize your resume, take time to review your cover letter for typos and grammatical errors. Have a friend or mentor read it as an added precaution.
- Be a savvy submitter. When applying through online job boards, always choose the option to add your cover letter to your resume. When e-mailing application materials to a hiring manager, paste your cover letter within the body of your message.