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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Job-hunting must: Write a cover letter

I'm in the process of reviewing resumes for two positions we're filling. Here's something I've noticed that make me wonder whether some candidates will ever find a job.

Many people send their resumes online without a cover letter. Most of these are coming via a job-posting site, so responding to my ad is as simple as clicking a few buttons. And that's why this annoys me. Given the number of applicants I've had for each of the positions, I've resorted to canning any resumes that arrive without a cover letter. It makes me think that the person applying really doesn't have that much interest in the position. If they did, they'd put a little more effort into making themselves stand out. A cover letter helps do that.

Here are some other ways a well-written cover letter can help:

1. Relate unrelated experience -- Quite a few people have applied for our positions who don't seemingly have the experience we're seeking. I don't have a problem interviewing people who feel they can translate other prior experience into this position, but I've got to know why you feel that's the case. Without a cover letter, I have no idea why you're applying for my position.

2. Explain job hopping -- I know times are tough and people are finding themselves in unfortunate situations multiple times. But, I'd really like to know why you've worked at 5 different places in the past 7 years. And, I'm not going to call you in for the interview to find out.

3. Draw attention to special accomplishments -- A person with 10-20 years work experience can have a pretty extensive resume. Help the hiring party out by detailing in your resume the special skills or accomplishments you've attained that set you apart from other applicants.

4. Showcase your communication skills -- Many jobs require someone with good written and verbal skills. A well-written cover letter will help show your ability in these areas. People who list "strong verbal and written communication" on their resume and then don't include a cover letter are liars or just lazy.