In the world of hiring, one of the most discussed issues concerns the necessity or lack thereof of sending a cover letter to accompany your resume. For the most part staffing firm recruiters have as much need for cover – letters as they do a full trash can which is where most cover letters in that environment wind up. Corporate recruiters conversely look very closely at cover letters as that often decided how much attention they will pay to your resume.
So above we have two very different and conflicting schools of thought. Which one should you go by and which one should you ignore? Which of these two seems to most logical way to you? How much do you know about cover-letter writing and what an effective cover-letter contains? Let us tackle each issue while trying hopefully decide works best for your situation.
Cover-Letters & Staffing Agency Recruiters: Staffing Agency Recruiters work with a multitude of clients often in a wide cross-section of industries. Their objective is to place the best and most qualified candidates in front of their clients. As they often have to compete with other firms in terms of filling the “job order” time is of the essence. Submitting your resume along with a cover letter for a position you’re seeking is a waste of the recruiters time. What is on your resume in relation to the “job specs” are what count. Does your resume match the hiring criteria as set forth by the hiring entity or not? If not the best-written cover-letter will not garner any attention.
Having worked in the industry for numerous years I can tell you what I have presented to you in the above paragraph is more the norm as opposed to being far from the norm. As a recruiter in a staffing agency, you should always be talking to new potential candidates to uncover new talent with the idea (candidate permitting) your resume can be marketed around to various potential employers assuming the recruiter engages in that practice. Nowhere if you notice is a cover-letter asked called for in this paragraph.
To contradict myself in the interest of giving you the broadest view possible I will tell you some very high level or elite staffing firms will only work with those candidates who have impeccable cover-letters that are accompanied by what a recruiter would consider to be a “gold” resume. It must be said that if your verbal presentation skills do match up to what appears on paper your chances of landing that “special” opportunity is almost nil. You have to convey an image of being the polished professional that you represent yourself to be on paper. Remember this type of agency only works with elite firms making them the exception to the rule.
Corporate Recruiters (aka HR Recruiters) are a different breed altogether. While their function is similar to the staffing agency recruiter their modus operandi is completely different. In their word, a cover-letter is expected. The cover-letter (once again properly written with a professional tone to it) can ultimately be an important key in getting your resume passed over to HR for transmittal to a hiring manager for serious consideration being given to having you come in for a face to face interview.
Corporate Recruiters may work on filling a number of “roles” at a time they are however exclusively for the company they work for and do not have issues relating to competition (to an extent this is true while being false at the same time) leaving them to possibly look at you for different openings within the company. Any corporate recruiter will tell you they are attracted by those few special cover letters.
To get a clearer picture of the value or lack thereof of cover letters it might help you have a general guide of what to put and what not to put on your cover letter. The cover letter serves as an introduction (much like the summary section of your resume except in greater detail) as to who you are, what you’ve done and what your goals are. That being said you want to make sure your introduction “wets the appetite” of the reader. Be expressive without coming off as bragging. State your case in terms of your strengths relating them to the various jobs you have had. Refrain from putting stickers (as some suggest you do) or drawings and alike in your letter since if you include any of the above you making a statement that you are not to be taken seriously.
You want to put your writing skills on display but don’t try to write the next great American novel in format or length. Refrain also from hiring a “professional resume writer” to help you with your resume and cover letter. Often times what will happen is that they will create a masterful looking document that you cannot close to matching up to. It’s okay to utilize various sources for grammar, punctuation, and spelling but never allow somebody to create something for you that is not you. Putting references on you cover-letter is not advisable as it just takes up space for no reason while offering no benefit.
To summarize we have two different types of organizations that are involved with recruiting but operate in two radically different manners that effects the necessity of the cover letter. Staffing Agencies (for my money always the best way to go if possible if for nothing else the advice and preparations they will provide you with are priceless. Yes, they will have other candidates besides you and try to place the best possible one (the fee they stand to collect comes into play) but if you represent their best chance of making the placement and collecting their fee (agency recruiters are out to make money so if you can sell yourself to them as the strongest candidate as evidenced by your resume) you will garner the bulk of their attention. Unless otherwise instructed I highly advise you not to send a cover letter.
The Corporate Recruiter is paid the same salary irrespective of whether you get hired or not. They are more methodical in their process and tend to take a closer look at each document you send them. Hence a cover-letter is critical. This document is your personal key that can open doors to you that were previously locked tight. If you did your due diligence by directing your cover-letter to the appropriate party instead of a generic introduction that is a crucial advantage right there.
It is my hope that I have at least to some extent help clarify the often conflicting views as to when to and when not to use a cover-letter. In times of doubt consult with others who have been in this situation recently to assist you with your decision as to how to proceed in terms of sending along a cover-letter.