It’s The Cover Letter, Stupid

"A great resume will get you not-rejected, a great cover letter will get you hired."

At least that’s what David Heinemeier of 37Signals thinks. After reviewing scads of candidates, he’s come to the conclusion that the resume, if reasonably presentable, is reduced to a check list of skills and experience. But it’s the cover letter that will set you apart. He writes:

When I’m saddled with 70 applications for a job, I have to make some rough cuts very quickly. I literally have to decimate the pool. With the resume only doing 20% of the job, the key is left with the cover letter.

This means that ‘If you like my resume, give me a call’ doesn’t make the cut for a cover letter. I need more romance and originality than that to pick up the phone.

So there you go, folks. Real world insight from a real hiring manager faced with culling through candidates. The take away: All that advice about tailoring your cover letter to the company and job? Turns out it’s really true. Heinemeier goes on to explain:

It also means that you really have to tailor your tone to the company. Pulling out your Business Serious voice and addressing ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ instantly kicks you down a few levels. Just like showing up in a suit would do when everyone else is wearing jeans and t-shirts (except of course if you have extreme pizazz to pull it off).

The gut reaction builds immediately. If the first paragraph is a strike, the second has to work that much harder. If there’s no hook in the first three, it’s highly unlikely that anything is going to come of it.

So what does a cover letter good enough to get past Heinemeier look like? It’s designer Jason Zimdars’ web introduction. In it, it’s clear he’s done his research. As a result, it hits the right tone and covers all bases. Take a look at what Zimdars has done, fellow mortals, and learn.

– Chad Broadus

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