Unlocking Opportunities: When a Cover Letter Makes a Difference in Your Job Application

What’s your opinion on cover letters?

“I never send one (they’re old-fashioned).”
“A cover letter should hammer home why I’m a perfect fit for the job.”
“I think a cover letter should be included with each job application.”
“I honestly don’t know.”

Right?

Back when resumes were snail-mailed, a cover letter was an integral part of the application process, a friendly ‘How do you do?’ before the resume-reading began. Today, cover letters aren’t always needed or expected.

So when SHOULD a cover letter be used? Here are some situations where, as a recruiter, I would expect one.


When you’re applying for a job that’s a slight pivot from your current one, use a cover letter to address the reason why your skills/experience are a fit (pick 2-3 skills found in the job description and briefly talk about yours).

When you’re applying to a lower-level role. Again, keep it short, acknowledging that you’re applying to a less-weighty role and focusing on the value you can add while dialing your work responsibilities back, i.e. “I’m ready to move from a leading role to a supporting role.”

When you’re applying to an onsite position from a different location
, use a cover letter to briefly address what brings you to our fair city (i.e. to be near family, partner got a job here, etc.). In my experience, hiring managers are wary of bringing someone to a new city JUST for a job. Also, timing is helpful (how soon do you expect to be local?);

And anytime the company whose job you’re applying to ASKS for a cover letter.

OK – that’s the when; here are some tips on what to say:

Start by reviewing the job description; select 1-2 key requirements (don’t just match years of experience ~ talk about similar industry, company size, growth trajectory or how you’ve successfully conquered issues your target company may be facing).

Craft a couple of sentences about your experience as it relates to those requirements (ie. “with experience creating scalable processes within a fast-growing company, my background should be a good fit.”

Invite: “I’d welcome the opportunity for a conversation / interview / discussion”.

Add a little flattery, if it’s sincere and well-researched: “I’ve heard great things about <company / company’s transformation / thought leadership in xyz / other buzz>.”

To whom should your cover letter be addressed?

Do a quick LinkedIn search on the company you’re applying to. Can you figure out who the hiring manager is? If so, address it to that person and say something like, “Based on my research, it seems likely that this position reports to you.”

If you can’t figure out who the hiring manager is, see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is, who’s the recruiter listed as the point of contact? Use that name. If there isn’t a name, address your cover letter to ‘Talent Acquisition’ or ‘<company name> Recruiter’ or ‘Hiring Team’.

Now put it all together:

Want your cover letter to be read? Don’t just regurgitate everything that’s on your resume.

Keep it short, relevant and curious/confident (vs. a ‘pick me! I’m the perfect fit!’ feel). It’s much appreciated when you, the applicant, help us connect the dots.

There are no guarantees that your cover letter WILL get read, but when you’ve kept it tidy, friendly and trim, it’s much more likely that it will be. Go on, you’ve got this.

Using my recruiting experience, I help technology leaders better-define their professional brand and navigate their job search. Want to know more about my signature Professional Branding Package? Click here.

Not sure yet, or you’ve got questions? Use this link to schedule a FREE, no-strings intro call.


Copyright Katherine Turpin 2024. All rights reserved.