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To Cover Letter or Not to Cover Letter?
One of the most common questions we receive is whether or not to include a cover letter with a job application. On one hand, a Cover Letter is a great way to introduce yourself, especially if you can do it in a memorable and personable way. It shows you put forth the extra effort and if done correctly, can really make you stand out. On the other hand, writing them requires a skill that many are uncomfortable with and a poorly crafted Cover Letter can actually hinder your chances even if coupled with a great resume.
In the end, this article is going to base a decision on what Hiring Managers have indicated for years - they love ‘em!
First off, the most important rule - if the job description specifically requires a Cover Letter, you must include one if you plan on applying for the position. Reality check, nobody is so above replacement that they need not follow instructions and still get the job.
With that said, most job descriptions do not require a Cover Letter. So now what? Well, here are three instances when you should NOT include a Cover Letter:
If You Have No Interest or Ability to Personalize the Cover Letter: If you are going to search online to find some generic template out there, you are better off not submitting one. For years, job seekers have rushed online, found a template and proudly sent them off. Hiring Managers have seen them all and are well aware they took 5 minutes to create for mass-distribution. Even worse, they take the time and attention from your resume, which is sure to be better than a templated Cover Letter.
If You Have Nothing New to Say: Remember, the Cover Letter is supposed to be personal and grab the reader’s attention. If you plan on summarizing your education, work experience and education - DON’T - leave that for your resume. But if you have a personal backstory that explains how you became interested in the field or the employer, that’s great!.
If You Want to Provide Examples of How You WIll Add Value to or Improve the Company: You can use a Cover Letter to demonstrate your knowledge of the position, but most likely you will come off like a know-it-all or worse be perceived as having negative things to say, which no Hiring Manager will entertain. You will have your opportunity to answer these questions in an interview (hopefully).
In most other cases, it’s appropriate and recommended to send a Cover Letter. You should be prepared to spend just as much time on it, possible more, than your resume. You should share valuable, personal and memorable information that is not on your resume. In addition to compelling life stories that relate to your background, here are some hints:
Do You Have a Personal Connection or Referral? If you were referred by a family member or a friend, always not this in the Cover Letter. How do you know them? Did they introduce you to any other company employees? Why did they think you would be a great fit?
Do You Have a History With the Company? Maybe you worked for a competitor, supplier or vendor. Maybe you crossed paths with a current or former employee at another company. Who was it (help connect the dots)? What information was shared that swayed you to want to work for the company?
It’s Your Dream Job. It sounds, and may feel corny, to write a passionate and heartfelt Cover Letter indicating this particular position is your dream job. But so long as you have taken the time to explain why providing examples as to why (i.e.: research performed on the company, its culture and the position), it’s only human nature for the Hiring Manager to be impacted by that and remember it.
Did your employment application just get tossed by a robot?
Online job postings receive an average of 425 applications. 60% of employers use some sort of automated screening that allows them to quickly get to the shortlist of candidates. So even if you are a perfect fit for the position, there is a chance your application is tossed for missing a minor detail. First and foremost, read the application instructions carefully: all required fields must be completed, include “N/A” in optional questions that are not applicable to you and avoid using special characters. Triple check your grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Use the exact keywords from the job posting in your application – the more often the job posting repeats customer service, the more important that keyword is to the automated screening. Additionally, identify the key responsibilities and requirements – for example if you applying to work in a warehouse you may see terms like “Forklift”, “Material Handling Equipment”, “Receiving” and “Unloading”. Make a list and get those keywords in your application.
No work experience? No worries. How to find a job anyway.
It can be quite a conundrum – employers want to hire candidates with experience, but if you’re a first-time job seeker or have not worked in a long period of time, how can you have experience? The first step is understanding that anything task that required you to be responsible, solve problems and/or learn new skills can be considered work experience even if you were not paid. So that time you spent babysitting, housesitting, volunteering, washing cars and walking dogs for the neighbors or raising children all exemplify qualities that employers deem valuable. This is work experience that you can be proud to tout. Ideally, you are able to apply the skills you used and those you learned to doing these tasks to the position you are applying to.
Avoid these interview mistakes or get ousted by 90% of hiring managers.
What’s worse during a job interview, lying or touching your phone? Based on a recent survey of 500 hiring professionals by JazzHR, they are equally bad - 90% of hiring managers indicated they would immediately disqualify a candidate for either. Welcome to the world of technology where diverting your attention to your cell phone is now equal to lying. In order to help avoid such costly blunders, here’s a few other no-no’s that happen all the time and will disqualify you in the eyes of most hiring managers: 81% of hiring pros will disqualify you for badmouthing a previous employer; 80% of hiring pros won’t hire someone with bad hygiene; 71% of hiring pros will skip a candidate who missed the dress code; 76% of hiring pros won’t hire a candidate who appears arrogant. While these errors may appear obvious, they occur frequently in the heat of the moment or due to lack of preparation.