I will let you in on a secret, as a recruiter for over 15 years, I have never read a cover letter unless it was part of the application process.
However, there is another highly effective alternative to a cover letter that can 1) open doors, 2) build your network and 3) make you stand out as a Top Candidate that is resourceful, proactive and can add value to the hiring organization! (Presuming, you possess the experience required!!)
My 2.0 alternative to the old-school cover letter is the ‘Winning Email of Introduction.' The 2.0 alternative is less formal, more personalized and customized to the hiring organization and job description than a cover letter. Most importantly you'll send it DIRECTLY TO THE HIRING MANAGER'S email (never via the ATS or the online system). So yes, it does involve some detective work finding out who the Hiring Manager is and their email address, but it can be a highly effective strategy if you want to stand out from your competition, connect with the person who is the decision maker or network with a hiring leader from an organization of interest.
But for heaven's sake, don't waste your time or theirs if you can't clearly show that you can add value to their team. You should be able to highlight in three-five bullet points how your functional area of expertise and knowledge of the industry or space can add significant value to their team and company.
The Winning Email of Introduction is short and sweet. It follows a formula I refer to as ‘GPS’ formula.
First, I recommend looking to connect personally with the hiring leader (perhaps they have a unique name, or have a connection in common, or worked at a competitor, or wrote a recent blog). Then introduce yourself, current job title, place of employment & education if relevant and specify the role you have just applied for online!
G-Goal - Show that you have done your homework and speak to the mission of the company, recent wins and note you have been following them for some time.
P- Problem-Highlight your understanding of the challenges the hiring organization is looking to overcome (use the JD as a guide or industry challenges you are aware of based on your experience)
S-Solution-Describe in 3-4 bullet points how you can help solve these problems based on your functional area of expertise, competitive knowledge of the industry landscape or company environment.
Sign off – I look forward to the opportunity of meeting you in person and learning more about the goals and challenges you are facing, and how my experience can add value to your team and organization.
Don’t forget to use the personal connection point that you refer to in the first line of your email, in the subject line as well to grab their attention!
Bottom line, unless a cover letter is a requirement in the JD, save your time and energy. Instead, if you want to land the interview #1, apply for positions you know you'll be considered qualified (use the Self -Qualification Quiz) and #2. Spend the 20 minutes customizing your resume! Then make it personal and connect with the person who will be hiring you! Go the extra mile and send a winning email of introduction to the Hiring Manager, if you want to seal the deal on getting the interview and building your professional network!
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