Cover letters are an essential and powerful way of introducing a reader to yourself. They are usually the first point of contact between you and that reader and as a result, are the most important document in your introduction. I've written about this before with, "Extreme Cover Letters (That Don't Work)!". As you're about to see, it's time to write about it again. Apparently, my point has not yet been made!
The cover letter is your opportunity to set the stage for what's to follow. It gives you an opportunity to specifically say why you're interested in contacting the recipient. It can provide valuable context for everything else to follow. It is extremely important to take advantage of the cover letter!
I'm going to make some comments about the following letters, that I don't intend to be dis-respectful. I have to admit that I'm frequently astounded by the lack of effort candidates make to introduce themselves. If a resume submission does not have my name in the cover letter, that candidate is instantly facing an uphill battle. They are simply too lazy to add a name to a letter. They think that quantity of letter sent, will make up for lack of quality in letters sent. Obviously, that's flawed thinking! (BTW, if I'm included in some blind email to likely dozens and dozens of recruiters, that email is deleted.)
Conversely, if a cover letter mentions my name, and goes on to mention something specific about my company or my background (for example), I'm immediately more receptive. It's not an ego thing, it's the demonstration that the candidate took the time to find out something about my company and me, and then made the effort to write a letter directly to me. If they can spend a few minutes to get my attention, I will certainly spend a few minutes to look at their materials.
Here we go (the punctuation and spelling is just as it appeared in the original letter:
Attached please find my resume. I'm interested in a copywriting position.
All the best,"
Here's a copywriter who doesn't take the opportuity in a cover letter to write anything interesting. This person is (obviously) not a strong candidate for copywriting! They can't even get the spacing right!
I am reaching out to you in regards to corporate recruiting.
I am a hyper creative marketing wiz. I have learned how to promote on a small scale and now I would like to take those skills and apply them to larger businesses."
I've always believed that it's a better idea to let someone else sing your praises. It rarely works when you try to do it yourself . . . as in this case. A "hyper creative marketing wiz" would certainly be able to do a better job of introducing themself!
Please accept my resume and cover letter. I would love to meet with you sometime soon, so we can learn a bit more about each other.
This candidate knows my first name, because my email address starts with Bob@! There is not one reason in this cover letter that makes me want to spend a moment of my time to learn a bit more about this candidate. Additionally, the candidate lives in South Carolina, so meeting would take quite an effort!
"My credentials in Marketing Communications are rock solid. Your client could join firms like Winnebago, Texas Instruments and Catepillar, who have benefitted from my award-winning work.
Review my credentials and contact me to see how a dedicated professional with a real work ethic can really pay-off for your client."
Really . . . You Bet! I'll do that right away! This guy's pretty confident, which I'm confusing with arrogance and condescension!
"Phil Desanex following up with you. I sent you a resume a while back but I have made some changes and wanted to update you. If you remember I work for Honeywell International and have had tremendous growth. I am hoping for some feedback on what the market might have to say about my accomplishments. I was told that your organization was one that is professional and reputable. I was hoping you would be so kind as to give me that feedback, however, my search is confidential at the moment. I would not want Honeywell to think that I am not happy there. Please contact me at your convenience."
"This is a follow up e-mail to provide you with an updated version of my resume. I have made some changes and wanted to make sure you had a copy for your records. If you remember I am in Sales leadership for Paychex and have performed multiple territory turn around initiatives for them. In the next few months I will likely be asked to take on more responsibility but before that happens I wanted to see what the current market might have to offer. Please let me know how your recruiting efforts are going. If you handle searches for candidates it would be great to have a brief conversation. Please give me a call my number is below."
Neither of these candidates had ever contacted us before. This is apparently some tactic recommended by some site or service out there. It doesn't work for me. They're basically lieing to me. Further, the thought that any recruiter would remember any particular responsibilities, is a very long shot. Recruiters receive literally hundreds of resumes a week. My first filters are my name on the cover letter, and typos. If there's a typo, I delete the message. I've seen typos in the subject line!!
"I should start off by saying I enjoy writing cover letters very much. When you think about it, they’re just a giant advertisement for yourself. And because writing advertising copy is one of my favorite things to do, you can see why I’d love them. It’s a natural passion. And that is why I would be a perfect candidate for an interactive writing job in St. Louis."
Nicely done . . . this got my attention! I spend some time investigating the resume, and visited the website to read some work. It takes a lot to get a recruiter or hiring manager to actually spend the time to go to the website. If the cover letter isn't impressive, why bother?
"I was browsing through your website, and I was very impressed with what I saw. Your ability to successfully move from photographer, to VP and Director of Operations, to retained recruiter is unusual. Not only do you demonstrate professionalism and strong working relationships with your clients, but you seem to have a strong work ethic that separates you from the rest of the headhunters."
As you can imagine, I liked this one also . . . a bit patronizing, but it's apparent they spent some time learning about my company.
The one most important piece of advice I can give is cover letters have to include something specific about the recipient. Do your research and learn about them! You need to let them know that you've spent the time to research them, and that you are NOT wasting everyone's time by sending out scores of non-targeted, boring and ineffective cover letters and resumes.