EP 1040 Should you use a cover letter? If not, what should you do instead?

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Cover letter or no letter? Should you use a cover letter?

The fact is they cover letters are anachronistic if you think of it, what a cover letter was was something that was placed on top of the resume to explain to the reader what they were going to be reading. It explained what you did and how you did it and it preceded the resume.

We're not dealing with that these days. We're not receiving resumes delivered to us through the mail these days. We're sending emails so the notion of putting something on top doesn't work anymore. Some people even make the mistake of sending them as a second attachment. No one opens it up. They look for the document file name and lets them know that that one is your resume.

What do you do instead? I do believe that there is a place for you to explain to a reader what it is they will be reading.

What I want you to do is use the message area of your email like the old cover letter. In effect, that covers your resume.

Instead of saying the Monday of, "I'm forwarding my resume to you for the position of such and such (That's paragraph one). Paragraph two says, "I believe my experience with such and such demonstrates my… You know are going with this." These things don't say anything and no one cares about them.

Here is what you do instead.

Start off with the same introduction and then continue on by saying, "let me show you how my background fits with the role."

If saw an ad or been told by someone about the position, you put those qualifications in the left-hand column. In the right column, you tell them how long and how recently you've done that which they are looking for. In other words, you're making it obvious to them in your "cover email" how your background fits the role. Follow that?

You can go into a little bit of detail. This is the one time I believe you should use tables in presenting credentials; not in the resume but in the cover email because you can make the fit obvious to the reader.

The final paragraph says, "if I haven't heard from you in a few days, I will give you a quick call to see if you have any questions or whether you would like to arrange for an interview."

It's very simple! It also gives you permission to follow up because you giving yourself permission to follow up.

It forces you to do a little bit of work by forcing you to demonstrate how the background actually fits the requirements of the position but it will go a long way toward helping you actually get in the door.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching and life coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1000 episodes,“ Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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