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The job of the cover letter is to get the employer/recruiter to read your resume. The job of the resume is to get you a job interview. The job interview is to get you a second interview and/or the job.
But do recruiters really read them? In my experience, rarely. In recruitment there are numerous applications coming through for any given position, the time taken to grab the readers attention (as discussed previously in How to Write a Resume) is slim, and cover letters don’t normally tell you anything that the resume doesn’t. So why bother?
The situation can dictate whether a cover letter is required. For example, applying for jobs normally received by one of two people. The recruiter (i.e. Concept Engineering) or the direct Human Resources (HR) person at the company advertising. Recruiters are less likely (in my opinion and experience) to read the cover letter, however the HR person would more readily take the time and read. This may be to asses grammar, it may be to assess relevance, it may just be to fill in some time before lunch. So, remember to assess who you are applying to.
This is just one variable in the cover letter debate. Basically, treat every position like the unique opportunity it is. Don’t trot out generic information, personalise it, make it relevant to the company, make them want you.
So, if you decide that the cover letter will benefit a specific opportunity, below are some other key things to remember;
• Do ensure that it is addressed to the right company
• Do ensure it references the position you are actually going for
• Keep it under a page
• Note your preferred contact method, so that the recruiter knows how to contact you
• Mention your current availability so that the recruiter knows when to contact you
• Do not repeat your whole resume, but focus on 1 or 2 key achievements that relate to the role you are applying for.
In summary, a cover letter may not get read, but provided you adhere to the things above, it can’t hurt to include it. You shouldn’t be excluded from contention because you do.
For reference, please see here for the difference between a CV and a resume