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Cover Letters: Don't Bother

Cover Letters: Don't Bother

Don't let this happen to you!

Kayla Baxter

July 01, 2009

In my daily search for information on job interviews, resumes and cover letters, I tend to see the same advice: Don’t make your resume more than one page, get prepared for the interview, and always send a cover letter. Always.

But yesterday I came across someone that says something completely different. His basic philosophy is: “Cover letters? Don’t bother.”

David Silverman of the Harvard Business blog argues that the typical cover letter falls into one of three categories: The recap, the form letter, and the “I’m crazy.”

The recap is essentially just the resume, reformatted into a letter. Thanks, but I got your resume, so I don’t need to read it again.

A form letter basically tells a company you made no effort researching them and have no idea what you’re actually applying for. A cover letter should never start with “Dear Hiring Manager.” That’s just lazy.

The “I’m crazy” … well, more on that in a different article.

Here’s a quote from the post:
There are really only a few times to use a cover letter:

1. When you know the name of the person hiring
2. When you know something about the job requirement
3. When you’ve been personally referred (which might include 1 and 2)

Under those conditions, you can help your cause by doing some of the résumé analysis for your potential new boss. To illustrate, here’s the best cover letter I ever received:

Dear David:

I am writing in response to the opening for xxxx, which I believe may report to you.

I can offer you seven years of experience managing communications for top-tier xxxx firms, excellent project-management skills, and a great eye for detail, all of which should make me an ideal candidate for this opening.

I have attached my résumé for your review and would welcome the chance to speak with you sometime.

Best regards,

Xxxx Xxxx

Here’s what I like about this cover letter: It’s short. It sums up the résumé as it relates to the job. It asks for the job.

At first, I was unimpressed. After all, my own cover letter is a long list of what I deem to be my crowning achievements, and I found a great job that I love using it. Then, I took another look over it, with the eyes of a hiring manager this time, and now I understand what he means. I was bored after the second paragraph and, frankly, I’m shocked that I got that interview in the first place.

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