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Is there any value in writing a cover letter? Yes!

Is there any value in writing a cover letter? Yes!

Buckle up. It’s about to get bumpy as we discuss the widely debated issue of cover letters.

For some reason, there is great debate in the career development and recruiting industries as to the value of cover letters. What’s at issue: Some people read them and some people don’t, and everyone believes their opinion is the right one.

Here’s the thing – no one can speak for all companies in all industries at all times. People ask me to talk in absolutes about cover letters and the truth is, I can’t know with any certainty what every company is or is not doing about cover letters. In fact, no one can know this.

So when asked for my thoughts on cover letters, here’s what I share:
I was once in a room with five hiring managers. Four of the five said they don’t read cover letters.

One of the four then hesitated and said, if the resume was really good, they might go have a ‘quick scan’ of the cover letter; just out of curiosity. The four nodded their heads in agreement.

The fifth person then spoke. They were adamant the cover letter was the first thing they read. They seldom looked at the resume as more than an afterthought (much like the previous four felt about the cover letter). In the organization where they worked the instructions to apply to any open role read as follows:

<< Applicants must submit a cover letter, which clearly outlines how they meet each of the screening criteria. Resumes will be used as a secondary source to validate the experience described in the cover letter. >>

This approach may be a one-off, but this employer is the largest in the city where I live, so I share this story with those looking to apply to this particular employer.

These application instructions are a perfect example of why it’s important to read the job poster thoroughly, but I digress.

Back to the issue at hand.

You’ll seldom know with any certainty whether the person screening your application is a fan of cover letters, or not. So, hedge your bets.

My recommendation for writing cover letters is to follow the 80/20 rule.

Spend 80% of your time writing your resume for the job poster and 20% of your time taking the concepts from your resume and tailoring your cover letter.

What have you got to lose? You’ve already done the work of aligning your resume to the role, what’s a little more time spent on writing a cover letter that does the same?

Finish your application with the same vigour.

You are, after all, trying to make an impression on the employer.
Why submit anything but your best effort?

So, while the debate about cover letters continues, why not go the extra mile and give the people what they want – a well-polished cover letter.

Related Categories: Client Questions & Answers, Resumes & ATS

About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.

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