It might be the most important letter — that no one reads — that you ever write.
In the smartphone century, when job applications are often combed by automated software and nobody has the time to read anything longer than a preposition, the question of how to compose the perfect cover letter feels like a zen riddle: Why not just nail it to a tree crashing in an empty woods?
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Yet the one-page document’s value endures, career counsellors insist.
“There is still a role for the cover letter, but it is increasingly shorter and shorter,” President Louise Fletcher of Blue Sky Resume says. “Two, maybe three paragraphs is the norm.”
Don’t expect the audience to make it to paragraph number two.
“Lots of people don’t,” Fletcher adds. “They look at the cover letter’s first sentence to see what job you’re applying for, then go right for the resumé.”
Spend Time On It
That said, you’d be foolhardy to drum up a un-proofed cover letter, or worse, send out the same generic script for whatever position you put in for.
“Always custom tailor it,” Internet job hunting expert Margaret Riley Dikel says, even if you’re completely sure it will languish at the unread bottom of an inbox.
“Some people will look closely at the letter and if it isn’t personalized and didn’t specifically address the details of the job, they’ll ignore the resumé,” she continues. “Write the best introduction so that people who skip it will be fine, but people who read it will get your full story.”
Put Their Words in Your Letter
Don’t be afraid to re-write the ad, Dikel urges.
“They actually want to see the same words they used in the post,” she explains. “This is the first cut for human resources. Do your qualifications match those of the position?”