Sunday, July 1, 2007

Stop Writing Cover Letters and You’ll Get MORE Interviews: Best of reCareered - Page 3

Statistics, Exceptions And Special Situations

Statistics: Earlier this year, I published the results of polls and surveys of thousands of hiring managers, recruiters, and HR staff, detailing how they used cover letters and resumes in selecting candidates to interview. Details can be found in the original article at
  • 96% of hiring managers, recruiters, and HR staff decide who to interview based on the resume, not the cover letter
  • 90% of hiring mangers, recruiters, and HR staff don’t review cover letters
  • 66% of hiring managers, recruiters, and HR staff don’t even get cover letters
  • Yet, over 90% of candidates put most of their key differentiating information, why they are perfect for the job, in a cover letter - and not in the resume
Seems crazy doesn’t it? Why would anyone waste time on a cover letter? There are a few reasons cover letters (or a micro version called a transmittal letter) may make sense - keep reading for examples.

What if a company leaves a space for a cover letter?

Often when applying for a job through a job board or a company’s web site, an employer may leave a space for a customized cover letter. This is typically a default that was set up for all positions by the company’s IT department when implementing the software. Just because a company asks for a cover letter, doesn’t mean they will use it. Most companies and recruiters search their database of resumes to find candidate matches, not their database of cover letters.

In this type of an application, candidates have much better odds of gaining an interview by customizing the resume, rather than the cover letter.

What if a company asks for a cover letter?

Often, companies may ask for a cover letter by default - this doesn’t mean that the company will actually use the cover letter to determine which candidates to interview. In this case, I recommend a transmittal email. A transmittal email is short - one line that states the job you’re applying for and that you’ve attached the resume.

What if a cover letter is required by the employer?

Sometimes a cover letter is required by the employer. In that case, make your cover letter basic - add no more than two sentences to the transmittal email that lists the two top reasons you’re a match for the job. Use different language than the resume. Don’t just copy what you’ve already written - Summarize instead. Put all the meat and customization in your resume - that’s what will sell you and get searched.

What if the company asks you to tell why you’re perfect for that job in the cover letter?

Resist making the cover letter into a novel. Instead, tell the employer why you’re perfect in the resume, by demonstrating how you’ve already solved the problems that department faces today. Summarize the top two reasons you are perfect for the job in your cover letter. Give lots of detail why you are perfect in your individualized resume.

What if a company only gives you the option of faxing your application?

A company asking candidates to fax applications should receive fewer applications (it’s more work for the candidate) and probably isn’t putting applications in a database - they are reading manually. Read the full strategy for faxing job applications at

Since companies digitally search for experience details within your resume, and expect your resume to show why you’re a perfect fit…..

…Why are you wasting all that time on cover letters, when you could be customizing your resume?

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Related Articles:
Manuscript vs. Machine: republished from TheLadders
Recruiters And Hiring Managers Aren’t Telepathic

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luckcactus said...

At last! Someone who actually knows how recruitment happens! It's so depressing to see our colleagues tell jobseekers that cover letters are critical.

In 6 years of recruitment I can't remember reading a cover letter, have never passed one to a hiring manager and most importantly, never been asked to do so.

Well done for spotting that the Emperor has no clothes.

Eureka Job Hunt blog

Phil Rosenberg said...

Thanks luckcactus!