April 10, 2009
Should you send a cover letter? Definitely maybe, say hiring professionals
Don't you wish there was The Rule for job applications?
Unfortunately, there isn't.
Take cover letters. Should you write one? What should it say? How should you send it?
I asked several human-resources professionals what they preferred.
Some said they tend not to read cover letters. In organizations that require online applications, some said they look only at their formatted application.
Others said they'll look at cover letters but tend to glance only at the first few lines.
And a third group said absolutely write a cover letter. They want to see evidence of enthusiasm, personality, communication skills and other attributes or connections that might not jump out from the résumé or application form.
In an ideal situation, the job hunter can find out the organization's preference. But sometimes you need to make a best guess.
Office Team surveyed 150 senior executives about how valuable they considered cover letters to be. Twenty-three percent said very valuable; 63 percent said somewhat valuable; and 14 percent said not valuable at all.
Office Team suggested that good reasons to write cover letters would include the ability to explain résumé gaps or skill transferability.
Gordon Smith, a counselor at Lee Hecht Harrison in Overland Park, advises job hunters to send cover letters in as many ways as possible: snail mail, e-mail, e-mail attachment, fax.
So, to be safe, send a cover letter. Limit it to one page. Reinforce how perfect you are for the job. Ideally, address it to a specific person by name (spell it correctly). And sparkle.
Then don't worry about it.
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