No, Cover Letters Are NOT Obsolete


Today’s posting is a guest entry from the “Career Doctor,” Randall S. Hansen, PhD Tanya writes: I saw your web site while searching for advice on cover letters. Someone told me that cover letters are really obsolete, yet I find a lot of stuff written about them. So, what’s your advice? Should job-seekers like me really still be concerned with writing cover letters?
The Career Doctor responds: I wonder where some of these ideas come from, but I can tell you as directly as I can that cover letters play a vital role in the job-search process when done correctly. Cover letters should entice the reader, draw him/her into your story — enough so to turn the page and review your resume. Is that all, you may ask? Yes, that’s the function of a cover letter — to get your resume reviewed a little more carefully than without it, which in turn, ideally, leads to an invitation to a job interview. A cover letter specifically addresses the job you are seeking and how your unique attributes make you the ideal candidate — the perfect fit — for the job and the organization. Here’s a quick rundown of what your cover letter should entail. First, the length. Always err on the side of being brief, so no more than one page, and really about four paragraphs total. If it’s an email cover letter, it should be even shorter. Second, the content. The first paragraph must engage the reader. Make it dynamic. Make it weave the reader into the rest of the letter. Don’t waste it with some boring formulaic sentence. The second and third paragraphs give specific details that highlight your qualifications and your fit with the position and the organization; if possible, use some of the employers own words here. Your last paragraph should thank the reader and request an interview. You should also say you plan to follow-up the letter at a later date — you must be proactive. Third, the follow-up. Sending out the cover letter and resume is an extremely important step, but only the first of many. Job-seekers must follow-up by contacting the employer shortly after they expect the letter to arrive — to show your interest and enthusiasm for the job and organization. For more cover letter tips, please visit this section of Quintessential Careers: Cover Letter Resources for Job-Seekers. Stay tuned later this month when we’ll be presenting some new research on employers’ cover-letter preferences.