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Why Resume Cover Letters Should Matter to Employers

Why Resume Cover Letters Should Matter to Employers 
By Susan Heathfield, Guide

Job searching specialists and career counselors recommend that job applicants write a customized resume cover letter to accompany each resume sent to an employer. They’re right. As an employer, a customized resume cover letter matters.

A resume cover letter saves you time, connects the candidate’s relevant experience to your advertised job, and provides insight into the candidate’s skills, characteristics, and experience. The factors viewed as important by your candidate are emphasized in a resume cover letter.

What to Look for in a Resume Cover Letter

The resume cover letter enhances the resume and should not be sent to you as a stand-alone document. You are looking for a well-written, informative resume cover letter that demonstrates the candidate’s attention to detail. Appropriate grammar and correct spelling tell you that the candidate invested the time and energy to make a positive impression.

Typos and poor formatting in a resume cover letter, on the other hand, signal an applicant that failed to take the time to make a good impression. Employers rightly regard the resume cover letter as their best example of the candidate’s ability to express thoughts in writing. This is because the average applicant’s resume cover letter is not reviewed whereas most candidates ask multiple people to review their resume.

Tips for Reading a Resume Cover Letter

Use these tips as you read a resume cover letter.

  • Determine the position for which the candidate is applying. (This should be in the first sentence, but if your experience is anything like mine, many candidates don’t specify a position. They write statements such as, “I saw your ad on MLive and think my background and experience are a perfect match for it.”) The candidate should not make you guess.
  • Look for an overall statement about why the candidate is applying for your advertised job.
  • If your job ad or job posting stated specific skills, experiences, and traits, the candidate should have summarized why and how their specific skills, experiences, and traits match what you are seeking.
  • The candidate’s summary should provide specific examples that support the fact that their specific skills, experiences, and traits actually are a match for what you seek.
  • Look for an action-oriented ending to the resume cover letter that expresses the candidate’s hoped for conclusion. “I look forward to an interview during which we can further explore the specifics of my potential match with your advertised position.”
  • Some job search professionals suggest that candidates state that they will call the employer to follow up. This is a nightmare in a small-to-mid-sized company in that 100 or more resumes are often received for a single advertised position. Maybe larger companies have recruiting staff members who can field the phone calls, but smaller companies certainly don’t. In fact, human resources professionals have a name for job searchers who call repeatedly – they call them stalkers. 
    As an employer of choice, you can save your candidates' time and worry. Send a post card or letter acknowledging receipt of their application. The note can simply state that their application has been received, and if they are one of the people whose qualifications seem to most closely match your needs, you will call them to schedule an interview.
  • Once you have reviewed the resume, look back at the resume cover letter for explanations of any items that are unusual on the resume. This may include an explanation for a gap in the candidate’s employment history.
    Your candidate might explain why they have changed employers twice in two years, as another example. The letter might state that the candidate’s expected graduation date is June. If oddities in the candidate’s employment history are not explained to your satisfaction on either the resume or in the resume cover letter, you’re probably smart to pass on interviewing the candidate.

Candidates who fail to spend the time to construct an effective resume cover letter deserve less attention than candidates who understand the resume cover letter’s importance – and write one. These tips summarize the key knowledge you can gain from an effective resume cover letter.