There are mixed messages in the value of a cover letter. In one instance, a recruiter proclaims, "Never waste your time on a cover letter. I never read them," while in the next instance, in an equally insistent manner, a hiring decision maker says, "Always write an introductory letter to your resume. It can make or break whether you are invited into an interview, or not."
Question: So, what is a job seeker to do?
Answer: Write a template covering page, and have it on hand to mold for any situation where you are submitting your resume.
How Do You Prepare This Templated Letter?
1. Research Your Ideal Position. First, even if you don’t have an existing opportunity you are interested in right now, research a sample target position (a job with the look and feel of the type of role that would not only intrigue you but also for which you have essential qualifications). Now, draft a covering page that speaks to why you are interested in the position and how you can fulfill the specifications of the role, mirroring key requirements in the posting.
2. Research the Company. Then, go a step further and research that company, its current products, services and marketplace impressions and speak to how you can further support their current and potentially future needs and pain points.
3. Research the Industry. Finally, research the industry you are targeting and weave in some of your skills, abilities, achievement stories and soft skills that you offer to the industry as a whole.
Why and How Do You Employ This New Letter?
4. Use It for Resume Introductions. What you have created is a template letter that you can draw from when faced with introducing your resume to a new person (hiring decision maker, recruiter and/or influencer).
5. Trim and Edit It to Fulfill Your Recipient's Needs. You will never submit (email, snail mail, hand off in person) this template letter in whole. If written well, it will expand to fill a couple of pages or more, and is just what it is called, a 'template' from which to leap off of and create a briefer (generally no more than one page) letter. This kitchen-sink type letter is built as a resource from which to pluck parts and pieces and develop a unique letter for job opportunities as they arise.
6. Leverage Portions for Various Other Job Search Communications. As well, your kitchen-sink letter is a repertoire of content: sound bites, paragraphs, mini-stories and such that you can draw from when you are communicating interest in opportunities even prior to submitting a resume. So, even when you don't need a formal cover letter (because you are not necessarily using it to introduce a resume), you can instead pull a couple of threads from this cover letter fabric to add a colorful email or conversational lead-in to your next job search communication.
7. Capitalize on Nuggets of This Letter When Communicating With Cover Letter Naysayers: As well, for those individuals (recruiters and such) who claim that cover letters are a waste of time, you might be surprised at the value of including even just a nugget or two from this template in your next communication with them. Use this repository to bolster your job-target value online in writing, orally during a phone call or in person during face-to-face interactions.
So, you see, the problem with an all or nothing approach to cover letters is that you miss out on the opportunity to further ferret details of your value in a way that you can capitalize upon at a moment's notice and in unexpected ways, in addition to the more traditional opportunities. Lean and mean and to the point is only effective communication if you first have a larger repository from which to vet out and flex the right muscle of your story for varied scenarios.