A while ago I wrote a blog post about how to start a cover letter. (See: How to start a cover letter). In it I talked about how to open the cover letter, telling your story in the body of the letter and how to end the letter. I also talked about the importance of telling your story clearly, which is something I cannot overemphasize. This article takes a broader perspective…
Let me start by asking a question:
Does it even matter how you start a cover letter if no one even reads it?
Here is my fear. My fear is that a lot of people are putting a lot of time into cover letters that are never going to be read.
Why aren’t they going to be read? Because I’m willing to bet that most cover letters are received as part of jobs people apply to online. Now, if you read my recent post on LinkedIn profiles (Your LinkedIn profile) you know this already, but applying for a job online is most likely a waste of time (especially the higher up the pay scale you are). Why?
- Hundreds of people often apply for jobs posted online.
- Having your resume be found and brought to the top of the pile is extremely difficult (and requires a keyword/SEO strategy in your resume, which most people don’t have).
- If you do make it to the top of the pile, your resume and cover letter will be read by someone with limited information (see How to get an interview and get hired).
The objective then, is to completely bypass the writing of the cover letter until the point when someone from the company that wants to hire you says, “Hey, we need a cover letter on file for the records, can you please put one together?”
This isn’t just theory. I have literally been offered a high paying position before my resume was even requested… and there was no cover letter to be written.
Networking. Yes, using my network. Someone I know well referred me to the CEO of a firm that was hiring. His credibility was my credibility… a resume/cover letter was unnecessary.
Networking is essential
I know it is comfortable to sit in your house and apply to job openings online. I’m here to tell you that it is a colossal waste of time.
What should you do instead?
First, fix up your LinkedIn profile (See Keys to a great LinkedIn profile (Part 1)).
Second, use LinkedIn to figure out who you need to start meeting with who might know about available positions.
Third, start doing 20 minute meetings with people who may be able to connect you with job openings.
If you’re not sure about how to approach this, I recently came across a very simple gem of a book called “The 20 Minute Networking Meeting.”
Order a copy. Read it. Then start meeting people.
A 20 minute networking meeting is so much more powerful than a cover letter, because ultimately you will have someone you met face to face recommend you to someone who is hiring for a position.
This is what you want: An express elevator trip to the top of the applicant pile.
At that point you may need a cover letter and you may need to submit a resume, but you’ll have a much better sense of what it should say.
So, how do you start a cover letter? Start by having a personal introduction to the hiring manager… If things go well, your cover letter will simply become a formality.
What questions do you have about cover letters, career coaching, or the hiring process overall? Email me at [email protected] or use the comments below.