Cover letter is as important as resume, if not more so

ON THE JOB

November 21, 2007|By HANAH CHO

To write one or not. I'm talking about the cover letter.

Eileen Levitt, president of the HR Team in Columbia, wrote me recently to lament about how shocked she was "by how many people don't include them in applications, even when they are requested in ads."

Here's the back story: Levitt posted a job for an executive assistant for her human resources consulting firm, specifically asking applicants to send a cover letter.

But about 80 percent didn't follow instructions, Levitt says.

"As a result, we didn't even consider those people as applicants," she says.

Maybe you're having the same thought I had when I received her e-mail: Are cover letters still a necessary evil in the job search process?

It has been quite a while since I wrote a formal cover letter.

My most memorable one got me an internship while in college. I know this because the recruiter told me when she called me to offer me the summer job.

"You should always make the assumption that the cover letter is required," Levitt says.

That's even if the job posting doesn't call for one. Including a cover letter shows initiative and can showcase creativity, writing skills and even humor - if done the right way, of course, Levitt says.

Levitt and other human resources experts say a cover letter is just as important as a resume.

Think of the cover letter as the introduction in the early stages of the dance between an employer and a job seeker. An effective cover letter will draw the recruiter to the resume and so on.

A survey conducted in June by CareerBuilder.com found that 12 percent of 2,546 hiring managers said they would automatically dismiss an application if it was submitted without a cover letter.

Other findings suggest that cover letters should not be computer-generated:

90 percent said they could easily spot a cover letter that was not customized for their company or open position.

22 percent said they were likely to dismiss a candidate if their cover letter was not customized.

30 percent said they were unlikely to keep reading a cover letter if the candidate didn't catch their attention in the first sentence.

"I spend more time on the cover letter than the resume. I like cover letters to take something from the resume and tell me how they fit into the [advertised] job," Levitt says.

Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com.

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