Think cover letters are passé when applying for a position? Think again, a new OfficeTeam survey suggests. More than three in four (78 per cent) executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. In addition, nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) respondents indicated it’s common to receive cover letters even when applicants submit resumes electronically.
The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 300 Canadian senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.
Managers were asked, “When evaluating prospective job candidates, how valuable is the cover letter that accompanies the resume?” Their responses:
- Very valuable 30%
- Somewhat valuable 48%
- Not valuable at all 18%
- Don’t know/no answer 4%
Managers also were asked, “When you receive a resume electronically from a job candidate, how common is it for that resume to be accompanied by a letter of introduction or cover letter?” Their responses:
- Very common 46%
- Somewhat common 33%
- Not common at all 12%
- Never receive resumes electronically 7%
- Don’t know/no answer 2%
“Although the job application process has increasingly moved online, the importance of a cover letter shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “It often is the first opportunity to make a positive impression on hiring managers. It’s also a chance to provide context for your resume, expand on key accomplishments and explain reasons for employment gaps or career changes.”
Added Hosking, “Professionals can stand out from the crowd by using the cover letter to demonstrate their knowledge of the company and explain why they are the best fit for the role.”
OfficeTeam offers five tips for job seekers when writing and submitting cover letters:
- Follow directions. Before sending your materials, read the job posting carefully. Employers frequently list specific instructions to follow when applying, such as including the job requisition number in the subject line of the email or submitting your cover letter and resume in a certain file format.
- Start smart. Address the letter to the hiring manager by name instead of using “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” If you don’t know the contact’s name, call the company and ask.
- Create a hook. A strong introduction offers a compelling reason to read on. Indicate which position you’re applying for and if someone referred you, then state how you can help the company meet its business objectives.
- Keep it short and to the point. Limit your cover letter to two or three brief paragraphs. Avoid sharing personal details that don’t relate to the position.
- Get it right. Have a friend or family member proofread your materials for typos. Before submitting, confirm the correct documents are included.