DiceTV: To Connect with Employers, Customize Your Cover Letter

Fact-based resumes limit your ability to bond with reviewers. (That’s right. We said  “bond.”) But a customized cover letter lets you express ideas and showcase your communication skills, which will set you apart from the crowd. Watch our video, or see  related stories here and here. And of course:

The Script

Welcome, job seekers. I hold in my hand seven envelopes which have been hermetically sealed. They contain questions about customized cover letters, which I will answer using only my psychic powers.

The answer is: “Slim to None.”

What are your chances of landing an interview without a customized cover letter? I’m Cat Miller and I’m connecting with employers on this edition of DiceTV.

A customized cover letter lets you express ideas and showcase your communication skills, which will set you apart from the crowd. Provide a glimpse into your personality by describing your passion for the company’s mission and vision and illustrate why you’re a perfect match for the company culture.

Time for another answer.

“RSS Feeds, Professional Networking Sites and Internet Searches.”

Where should IT professionals look for the information to create a customized cover letter? After you research the company and hiring manager, connect your experience to current business objectives, technology initiatives and competitive strategies. Cite company leaders and industry buzz words to prove you operate on a higher plane.

“They’re Soooo Yesterday.”

What’s wrong with generic cover letters? Reviewers won’t be impressed with a boilerplate letter. To achieve separation, emulate the success of Internet advertisers by customizing your message and salutation to appeal to each recipient.

“Stalker Alert!”

What happens if your message is a little too personal? It’s best to stick with professional references when writing to a manager and leave out tidbits of information about family or friends from Facebook or Twitter.

“Cha-Ching!”

What happens if you take the time to create customized cover letters?

I’m Cat Miller, and this has been DiceTV. We now return you to your regular desktop.

Comments

  1. BY John says:

    “What’s wrong with generic cover letters? Reviewers won’t be impressed with a boilerplate letter. To achieve separation, emulate the success of Internet advertisers by customizing your message and salutation to appeal to each recipient. ”

    I use Adblock plus, so that success bit … doesn’t quite apply in my case. I am noticing some parallels between job hunt tips and the whole “internet marketing/SEO” business, and I have to say that’s not a positive thing.

  2. BY John says:

    “What’s wrong with generic cover letters? Reviewers won’t be impressed with a boilerplate letter. To achieve separation, emulate the success of Internet advertisers by customizing your message and salutation to appeal to each recipient. ”

    I use Adblock plus, so that success bit … doesn’t quite apply in my case. I am noticing some parallels between job hunt tips and the whole “internet marketing/SEO” business, and I have to say that’s not a positive thing.

  3. BY Bill says:

    I’m amazed by how Cat’s presentations continue to assume that you can usually obtain detailed information on the hiring manager. More often than not, you can’t even find out the title of the hiring manager, much less detail. Also, in many cases, the cover letter really needs to be targeted at Human Resources. If you can’t get past them, the hiring manager will never see your resume.

  4. BY Bill says:

    I’m amazed by how Cat’s presentations continue to assume that you can usually obtain detailed information on the hiring manager. More often than not, you can’t even find out the title of the hiring manager, much less detail. Also, in many cases, the cover letter really needs to be targeted at Human Resources. If you can’t get past them, the hiring manager will never see your resume.

  5. BY Janet says:

    In theory these tips might work if one has already been employed. I never have, besides hourly high-school level work (not to slam that work if you’re actually IN high school or that diploma is all you have, but I didn’t pay for a degree to work at an amusement park after graduation and nothing since.) How is my cover letter supposed to “pop” or be personalized when every qualification I have is 2+ years old?

    I think John makes a good point, also. Heck, these past few years, we’ve largely trained ourselves to IGNORE ads, even without AdBlock. Why would I want my resume or cover letter to resemble something that the hiring manager has no doubt subconsciously trained herself to ignore?

  6. BY Janet says:

    In theory these tips might work if one has already been employed. I never have, besides hourly high-school level work (not to slam that work if you’re actually IN high school or that diploma is all you have, but I didn’t pay for a degree to work at an amusement park after graduation and nothing since.) How is my cover letter supposed to “pop” or be personalized when every qualification I have is 2+ years old?

    I think John makes a good point, also. Heck, these past few years, we’ve largely trained ourselves to IGNORE ads, even without AdBlock. Why would I want my resume or cover letter to resemble something that the hiring manager has no doubt subconsciously trained herself to ignore?

  7. BY Mark Feffer says:

    @Bill: You’re right that finding out details about the hiring managers is tough, and you can’t always do it. But you’ve got to try. Getting an approach from someone who’s done that legwork to learn about the specifics behind the job makes me sit up in my chair, when I’m looking to add staff. (Which, by the way, I’m looking to do – anyone know a writer/reporter/blogger?)

    Check out social networking sites, search Google and Google News, but most of all, ask around. If you’re looking for a job in an area you’re experienced with, you’re going to know people who know people – and some of those people may know what’s going on the the particular company, or even the department that’s hiring.

    Also, I don’t agree the cover letter should be targeted at HR. Their job is to pass on the most promising candidates to the person doing the hiring. If you write for the HR staff, you lose the opportunity to get the hiring manager’s attention when your package is sent on.

    Mark

  8. BY Mark Feffer says:

    @Bill: You’re right that finding out details about the hiring managers is tough, and you can’t always do it. But you’ve got to try. Getting an approach from someone who’s done that legwork to learn about the specifics behind the job makes me sit up in my chair, when I’m looking to add staff. (Which, by the way, I’m looking to do – anyone know a writer/reporter/blogger?)

    Check out social networking sites, search Google and Google News, but most of all, ask around. If you’re looking for a job in an area you’re experienced with, you’re going to know people who know people – and some of those people may know what’s going on the the particular company, or even the department that’s hiring.

    Also, I don’t agree the cover letter should be targeted at HR. Their job is to pass on the most promising candidates to the person doing the hiring. If you write for the HR staff, you lose the opportunity to get the hiring manager’s attention when your package is sent on.

    Mark

  9. BY John Gehrke says:

    Sounds like reasonable advise. I am curious what company would post anything like company objectives or even current projects on a public website? I could perhaps pick up this information from a company employee, although if I knew such people perhaps I would have a job already. Frankly, I would be more than happy with any ‘general’ IT job, such as networks or systems admin that I have done for years, and while I would hope to take time to research individual organizations, I try to contact many people a day and thus result to more general covers – but I am unemployed, so what do I know…

  10. BY John Gehrke says:

    Sounds like reasonable advise. I am curious what company would post anything like company objectives or even current projects on a public website? I could perhaps pick up this information from a company employee, although if I knew such people perhaps I would have a job already. Frankly, I would be more than happy with any ‘general’ IT job, such as networks or systems admin that I have done for years, and while I would hope to take time to research individual organizations, I try to contact many people a day and thus result to more general covers – but I am unemployed, so what do I know…

  11. BY Will B says:

    I like the vid. It’s funny, yet delivers a positive message to help me persevere, in this challenging market, that has utterly astonished me… Thanks for helping keep me on point so I can be more effective on my job hunting! My Family, future employer and I thank you, in advance. :-)

  12. BY Will B says:

    I like the vid. It’s funny, yet delivers a positive message to help me persevere, in this challenging market, that has utterly astonished me… Thanks for helping keep me on point so I can be more effective on my job hunting! My Family, future employer and I thank you, in advance. :-)

  13. BY MattyMat says:

    If your resume doesn’t state that you’re qualified for the position, you could write 100 immaculate cover letters— and it still wouldn’t do you any good.

  14. BY MattyMat says:

    If your resume doesn’t state that you’re qualified for the position, you could write 100 immaculate cover letters— and it still wouldn’t do you any good.

  15. BY Polly Purebred says:

    I think cover letters are probably more important now than ever. But the information given above as necessary is often not available. Resumes are circulated easily and therefore in great volume. It’s easy to get glassy-eyed reviewing them. HR often does not know more than the buzzwords associated with the job. If they aren’t in the cover letter and/or resume, it stops there, so mention skills & expertise using all of the current technical terms to describe it. Again, HR might not know there’s no difference between two (or more) terms for the same thing, but they WILL notice if the ones they want are not there! Candidate Tracking/Resume parsing programs can’t be smarter than the person who programmed them – but they’re faster. They work with the obvious and can’t infer anything. Tragically, most good applicants have probably been screened out that way at some time. Doubly tragic is that HR seems to think these super-screeners will find the PERFECT candidate. Isn’t technology wonderful! Job hunting is a very inefficient and inexact process. Quantity of applications can often trump quality in getting results. I, too, have gotten results without a cover letter.
    Regarding Company Objectives – Check the company’s website for a Mission Statement, but still do all you can to contact someone who knows the real “inside story.” Departments within a company can differ widely.

  16. BY Polly Purebred says:

    I think cover letters are probably more important now than ever. But the information given above as necessary is often not available. Resumes are circulated easily and therefore in great volume. It’s easy to get glassy-eyed reviewing them. HR often does not know more than the buzzwords associated with the job. If they aren’t in the cover letter and/or resume, it stops there, so mention skills & expertise using all of the current technical terms to describe it. Again, HR might not know there’s no difference between two (or more) terms for the same thing, but they WILL notice if the ones they want are not there! Candidate Tracking/Resume parsing programs can’t be smarter than the person who programmed them – but they’re faster. They work with the obvious and can’t infer anything. Tragically, most good applicants have probably been screened out that way at some time. Doubly tragic is that HR seems to think these super-screeners will find the PERFECT candidate. Isn’t technology wonderful! Job hunting is a very inefficient and inexact process. Quantity of applications can often trump quality in getting results. I, too, have gotten results without a cover letter.
    Regarding Company Objectives – Check the company’s website for a Mission Statement, but still do all you can to contact someone who knows the real “inside story.” Departments within a company can differ widely.

  17. BY John says:

    Cover letters are a complete waste of time, based on my extensive personal job search experiences. I stopped writing original customized cover letters, since nobody ever responded. I cannot justify spending all that time on something which produces no results. All my interviews have come from resume-only submissions. I can apply for dozens of jobs in the time it takes to write one solid customized cover letter targeted to a known hiring manager, who likely is not interested anyway.

  18. BY John says:

    Cover letters are a complete waste of time, based on my extensive personal job search experiences. I stopped writing original customized cover letters, since nobody ever responded. I cannot justify spending all that time on something which produces no results. All my interviews have come from resume-only submissions. I can apply for dozens of jobs in the time it takes to write one solid customized cover letter targeted to a known hiring manager, who likely is not interested anyway.

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