Your Custom Cover Letter is Critical

by Dino Londis

The cover letter is a one page narrative of only about a dozen sentences that communicates why you’re applying for a particular job, who or what referred you, why you’re the person to hire, and a summation.  The customized cover letter is based on your research about the company and the position, and connects your specific experience with the advertised job. It’s never been more important to craft a customized cover letter for each job submission.Why?

Other Applicants Are Doing It

Your Custom Cover Letter is CriticalYou know the numbers: Hundreds of applicants apply for every published position. We’re competing with each other for far fewer jobs. A well-crafted customized cover letter makes you stand out. Any hiring manager will tell you that after awhile one resume bleeds into the next, all boasting similar bullets and bold verbs. A pithy personalized cover letter moves a qualified resume into the short stack because its narrative gives life to the bullet points.

It’s Easy

Not too long ago, research required phone calls, interviews, and hopefully a connection to a colleague in the company. Now, of course, we can research the company, its competitors, the name of the hiring manager and even his or her colleagues through RSS feeds, social networking sites and good old-fashioned search.  Dig deep enough and you may discover a mutual connection.

It’s Expected

It’s expected because other applicants are doing it and it’s so easy. You’ll save the hiring manager the time of searching your resume trying to fit you into the position. You’ve already done the math, so to speak. The more work you put into linking the position and your resume, the more you’re speaking to the effort you’ll put in as a member of the team. 

It’s Marketing

The generic cover letter is as dead as the television commercial. No commercial will get my entire family’s attention, and yet advertisers pay a fortune in hopes of reaching their target audience. When I log into Yahoo, I get ads for Red Bull; my wife gets ads for the iPad. That’s called targeted marketing. Applying for a job is targeted marketing to one person. "To Whom It May Concern," or "Dear Sir or Madam," was once an acceptable introduction. Today it’s the kiss of death.

It’s Your Chance to Show Soft Skills

Such as communication. All the technical skills in the world won’t help if no one wants to work with you. A friendly, communicative, researched cover letter compliments the dry technical resume, showing a balanced employee.

You’ll Gain the Intangible

The one page cover letter allows for just a few connections to the resume, but you’ll gain so much more clarity about the position and the company from doing the research, which will also prepare you for the interview. Truth is, most people apply for a job because the company is hiring, not because they’re terribly excited about it. We see a job and try to shoehorn ourselves into it. By doing some research, you may discover a desire to do something with the company that results in more than getting that paycheck. If your efforts turn into an interview, you’ll be able to describe how you can help meet the manager’s needs – with genuine enthusiasm. Hiring managers have a way of picking that up.

What’s Worse than No Customization?

Bad customization. Today Show host Ann Curry found this out when she gave a commencement speech to Wheaton College in Massachusetts. She reeled off a list of distinguished Wheaton alumni – except they were alumni of a different Wheaton College – in Illinois.  Google can do the search, but you have to do the diligence. Make sure you get your facts straight. 

There’s a Fine Line Between Research and Stalking

If you’ve found that the hiring manager tweeted about evaluating a client-side hypervisor, that’s fair game to incorporate into your cover letter and interview. But you may learn from a tweet that he loves We Rule on his iPad or her kid is graduating high school. Although the information is technically public, there is such a creepy feeling knowing that someone you’ve never met knows this about you. When the interview comes, keep it to yourself.

Bottom line: The customized cover letter is critical and should be a standard page in your application packet.

Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.

Comments

  1. BY Durga says:

    Good one. However, the manager reviewing applications should also view the covering letters in the same spirit as the candidate has during he crafted it. Overlooking at covering letters is a general tendency in a colossal volume of applications.

  2. BY Durga says:

    Good one. However, the manager reviewing applications should also view the covering letters in the same spirit as the candidate has during he crafted it. Overlooking at covering letters is a general tendency in a colossal volume of applications.

  3. BY aj says:

    I submit to about ten jobs per day. I cannot research and write a cover for each. These days, it seems like certain skill sets are commodities to hiring managers. Seriously, I’m not getting such personalized treatment from the places that I apply to. I often have to re-write my resume on their web-site and again on an “official” application, only to find that they haven’t read it and want me to recount the entire thing from memory in multiple interviews.

  4. BY aj says:

    I submit to about ten jobs per day. I cannot research and write a cover for each. These days, it seems like certain skill sets are commodities to hiring managers. Seriously, I’m not getting such personalized treatment from the places that I apply to. I often have to re-write my resume on their web-site and again on an “official” application, only to find that they haven’t read it and want me to recount the entire thing from memory in multiple interviews.

  5. BY Mark Feffer says:

    AJ: It’s tough enough applying for ten jobs a day, I know – but unfortunately, if you’re not customizing your resume and cover letter, you’re not going to get anywhere. Check out this article, which gets into how to streamline the process.

    http://career-resources.dice.com/articles/content/entry/custom_tailor_your_resume

    Best,

    Mark

  6. BY Mark Feffer says:

    AJ: It’s tough enough applying for ten jobs a day, I know – but unfortunately, if you’re not customizing your resume and cover letter, you’re not going to get anywhere. Check out this article, which gets into how to streamline the process.

    http://career-resources.dice.com/articles/content/entry/custom_tailor_your_resume

    Best,

    Mark

  7. BY Will B says:

    I see were folks are objectionable. Heck, I too multitask for a living, BUT I can see how this challenging market has passed by my plain-Jane mass mailing approach. I don’t need to apply to 50 jobs a day. Most of them honestly do not even interest me, in the slightest. I certainly don’t want just any old job, knowing darned well I’d jump ship in a New York minute. I want THE job! I think I’ll keep my hunting to less than 5 per day so others can spam them to death with the default CV and default CL or none at all. Thanks for the good positive direction. I sure need it, now a days…

  8. BY Will B says:

    I see were folks are objectionable. Heck, I too multitask for a living, BUT I can see how this challenging market has passed by my plain-Jane mass mailing approach. I don’t need to apply to 50 jobs a day. Most of them honestly do not even interest me, in the slightest. I certainly don’t want just any old job, knowing darned well I’d jump ship in a New York minute. I want THE job! I think I’ll keep my hunting to less than 5 per day so others can spam them to death with the default CV and default CL or none at all. Thanks for the good positive direction. I sure need it, now a days…

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