Recruiter Roundtable: Cover Letters
The Recruiter Roundtable is a monthly feature that collects career and job-seeking advice from a group of recruiting experts throughout the US.
The question we put before our panel this month is: "In this age of uploading or emailing resumes, how important are cover letters in your decision to interview a candidate?"
Use It Strategically
My belief is that as long as a candidate meets the obvious basic criteria for a specific position, a well-articulated cover letter will only enhance their chances. A cover letter can also be useful to tackle an obvious weakness relative to an advertised role, usually a credential that is "required" (e.g., CPA or MBA) by pointing to equivalent training or experience. Overall, I am a supporter.
-- Anu Datta, executive recruiter, Korn/Ferry, San Francisco
Channel the Effort Elsewhere
Unless the job seeker is making a significant career change (i.e., different field) or is a fresh college graduate, I rarely look at a cover letter. It may be necessary to explain your position and bridge your experience to the position to which you are applying. Resumes are typically scanned and cover letters skipped over completely in evaluating potential candidates for first-round interviews, so it is advisable to either say what you must in the body of the email with a resume attached, or customize your resume toward each and every position you seek.
-- Lindsay Olson, partner, Paradigm Staffing
Say Something New
If I like someone's resume for a specific position, then I read the cover letter. Mistakes or typos in a cover letter have an impact on my impression of the candidate. I recommend getting a second set of eyes to review any cover letter. Cover letters tend to be fairly similar, so take up the challenge of making yours stand out. Tell me something about your professional history that I would never know from your resume -- how you lead a team to success on a project, for example.
-- Ross Pasquale, owner, Monday Ventures
It's All About the Resume
About 75 percent of the job seekers that have applied online for positions I manage do not attach a cover letter. What does that mean for me? I make most of my decisions to schedule an interview based strictly on resumes. When a job seeker includes a cover letter, I reward their effort by contacting them to thank them for their interest whether or not it leads to an interview. Who knows where that interaction might lead?
-- Cheryl Blackman, recruiter for Wells Fargo, Texas Human Resources
Yes, They Make a Difference
A good cover letter -- one that captures my attention because it is targeted to the position and highlights specific areas of expertise that the hiring manager is looking for -- can make the difference between whether or not I call someone for an interview or leave them in the "maybe" file. A great cover letter will persuade me to call you for an interview even if you may be lacking in some of the qualifications needed for the position. A poorly written cover letter tells me everything I need to know about you; you won't be called for an interview.
-- Cheryl Ferguson, recruiter, The Recruiter's Studio
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