Most candidates put a lot of thought and work into their cover letters. They feel that a strong cover letter provides an opportunity to really sell themselves as candidates. Your resume should be your main marketing tool, not your cover letter. Besides, cover letters tend to contain a lot of fluff. Hiring managers are more interested in your skills and abilities. Recruiters and hiring managers rarely even look at cover letters. Why? Because most of the time they either received a lot of resumes or they feel that your work experience and educational background should speak for itself. Either way, putting a lot of energy into crafting the perfect cover letter is likely a big waste of your time. Instead, you should use this time to analyze the job description and work on highlighting key experiences in your resume that will set you apart from other candidates.
Since cover letters are still a compulsory eliminate of the application process, I would encourage you to keep them short and to the point. Highlight your key accomplishments, awards you've received, and a little about yourself. Don't include information that may preclude you from getting a phone call from a recruiter either. Basically, you know you've got to have a cover letter, but don't provide too much information.
Cover letters do have a place (and I don't mean the trash can) in the application process, especially when you need space to explain why you are applying for a position that may not be a fit to your previous employment experiences. Relocation and career transition are both times when you should provide extra detail in your cover letter. Often I will receive a resume from a candidate who is out of the area. The first thing I try to figure out is, “Why are they applying for a position here?” Your job is to answer that question. If the applicant doesn't explain why he or she is applying for a position out of their area, most recruiters generally assume that you are either sending your resume all over the country or you would require relocation expenses. Neither of cases neither of these situations are particularly attractive to hiring managers. If you are already planning on relocating, maybe with your spouse's job, then you need to mention that in the cover letter. It explains why you are applying for a job in that location and that you will not need relocation expenses.
Career transition or recent college graduation are the other major reasons you should provide additional information in your cover letter. If you are transitioning careers a cover letter is an ideal space to explain what attributes you bring to a new position and what you are doing to attain the skills necessary to perform the duties of a particular job.
Matt Lowney is a Nashville, Tenn., based corporate recruiter and career consultant specializing in the areas healthcare and information technology. If you would like any additional information, please send an e-mail to: [email protected]