Kent Johnson, a Twin Cities-based recruiter who is the Area Manager of Professional and Technical Staffing at Kelly Services in Minneapolis, MN., has over 20 years of experience reading good cover letters, bad cover letters and everything in-between.
Johnson talks about the cover letter from his perspective below:
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one page advertisement of you and your skills. Unless I'm searching for a creative position or one that requires a high degree of communication, I usually give the cover letter a cursory glance. That being said, it's critical that you take the time to craft a well-written letter since not all recruiters act alike.
You want to catch the reader's eye so they're compelled to read your resume.
What do you look for in a cover letter?
I look for key elements of the job for which I'm searching contained in the letter. I'm looking for a match between the job description and the components listed in the cover letter. I want a short letter (2-3 paragraphs) containing evidence that the candidate can do the job. If those elements are in there, I'll be intrigued enough to read the resume.
Give examples of similar experience you had in other jobs. Also, if you know other employees in that company, use that referral name in the body of the cover letter (with their permission, of course).
Do recruiters even read cover letters?
I say it all depends on the recruiter. I personally blow by the cover letter to get to the good stuff; the resume. I'd say the bigger the company, the less likely they are to read a cover letter. If a corporate recruiter has 20-30 open jobs and they're sifting through 50-100 candidates per search, about the last thing they have time to do is read cover letters. However, never assume. Save a few versions of your cover letter so you don't have to recreate it every time.
What DON'T you want to read on a cover letter?
I don't want to read someone's life story. The longer the cover letter, the less apt I am to read it. Leave out any questionable personal information. Don't include your picture or personal stats (age, marital status, visa number, etc.).
Got anything else unique to add on this subject?
Take the job description and hone in on the critical elements of the job. Then, truthfully, craft your cover letter around those elements. Bold words and phrases about your background that fit that job. Then, even if your cover letter is glanced at, those key elements will leap off the page.
Not everyone is skilled at writing resumes and cover letters. If you need assistance, these resources can help:
Amazing Cover Letters
One Click Cover Letters
Need Resume Help?
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