Do recruiters and hiring managers actually read cover letters? Our resume writing professionals get this question all the time, and the short answer is yes, they absolutely do. A cover letter, when done right, provides a quick, concise window into the resume itself—and helps recruiters determine whether it’s really worth their while to investigate the job candidate further.
But wait. You’ll notice we said something about cover letters done right. Not all of them are, and a bad cover letter can hurt your case more than it helps it. So how can you be sure your cover letter is crafted to get results?
Make it short.
There are four recommendations we’ll offer, and the first is to keep it concise. Remember that the cover letter is a summary of your resume, so it doesn’t need to be as long as the resume itself! What we recommend:
- Keep it under a page.
- Write an introductory paragraph, then a paragraph or so of career summary—basically explaining why you’re the right person for the job.
- Include three or four bullet points, highlighting your biggest career accomplishments.
- Wrap it up with a conclusion and a signature.
Make it specific.
Remember that old writer’s rule, show, don’t tell? That’s certainly true when you’re writing a cover letter. Don’t just tell the recruiter that you’re dedicated or hard-working or energetic; those are just clichés. Actually furnish them with specific achievements that set you apart. Use stats and numbers whenever you can. You’re not going to go through your whole career history in the cover letter, but you can hash out a few high points.
Make it personalized.
Most of the time, you should be able to avoid the general To Whom It May Concern greeting, addressing your cover letter to the specific recruiter you’re meeting with. If you don’t have the name handy, some social media research or a call to the company’s HR department can often give you what you need. Keep it personal if at all possible.
Make it job-specific.
You can’t afford to have just one go-to, generic cover letter in your arsenal. You should be customizing it to fit each position you apply for, honing in on the skill and accomplishments that best fit the job description.