Some career experts say cover letters are an absolute must and that the notion of omitting the cover letter is absurd. Others, however, believe cover letters are dead or dying slowly.
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Studies have shown that cover letters don't matter all that much to many employers. According to Addison Group, a Boston-based employment agency, only 18 percent of hiring managers rank the cover letter as "important." Most hiring managers feel interviews, resumes, and references are much more important.
It's clear that the emphasis on cover letters has decreased throughout the years. So do you really need one anymore?
If you're spending time submitting job applications online and an employer asks for a cover letter, I say CYA and write the cover letter.
But if you're smart, and you agree with me that you should "find people, not jobs," then the traditional cover letter may not have a place in your job search process. What you'll need is an introductory note instead.
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What Is an Introductory Note?
An introductory note is what you write when you have been referred to a hiring manager or have found your future boss through research and are ready to reach out to them directly.
Of course, you'll attach a resume, but in the body of the email, you're going to write an introductory note – which is quite reminiscent of a cover letter, although shorter.
But it's 2017! Who has time to actually read their emails?
Skimming is the name of the game. That's why you want to keep your note short and sweet. You need to get right to the point and cut the fluff. Your note should pack a real punch!
Where your traditional cover letter may have started off with a paragraph about where you found the job ad and how delighted you were to learn of the opportunity (blah blah blah), the modern-day introductory note – or "eNote" – conveys your value in a meaningful way, shows the benefit of having you on board, and asks for a follow up conversation – in 200 words or less.
Here are some ideas of what to say in your note, in case you need help getting your creative juices flowing:
Highlight accomplishments: Without repeating what's in the resume, including quantifiable achievements is a great way to portray your unique value. Just remember to make it meaningful and relevant to the new role.
Mention why you are a good fit for the company: Each business has a certain culture and takes pride in a set of core values. If you were drawn to certain aspects of the company's business model, mention this and show how your work ethic aligns with its vision.
Demonstrate your industry knowledge: Mentioning a a historical fact or recent happenings related to your chosen field or target company shows your interest level and enthusiasm – not to mention it's also impressive.
Add the reason for your career change: If you are looking to pursue a new career, this could be an ideal place to discuss the reason you want to get into this new area and how your background has prepared you for a successful vocation in the new industry.
You could go a few different directions with this note, but make sure you understand your audience (the person you're emailing) and appeal to their specific needs.
With the eNote, you have an advantage. Because you know exactly who will be reading your note, you are in a much better position to appeal to them and speak in their terms. For example, writing to a hiring manager (your future boss) is much different from contacting an HR representative.
I always say go for the future boss – they will be most impressed with your skill set and background. Since they are closest to your day-to-day work duties, they can appreciate your capabilities, achievements, and passion.
So, my take on the cover letter debate?
It may appear to be dying, but it certainly isn't dead. It's somewhat of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, morphing into something much more beautiful and inspiring than before.
Melanie L. Denny is president of Resume-Evolution.