This post has been adapted from this thread on reddit.
1. “These wont get you hired on the spot, but they will stop me from moving you to the maybe pile (which is actually the no pile).
Tailor to the job. Don’t tell me about rugby or sales if you are applying to be a chemist. These can be on your resume, but your cover letter should sell me on why you would be useful to me. Demonstrating an understanding of the job and skills involved shows that you will be slightly less of a PITA to train.
Address the letter properly. I’m in academia, you work for a professor. Address the letter to him or his secretary. This might seem trivial, but its a small thing you can do to show that you want this job and not just any job.
Spell check and proofread on two different days. Make it three if its a position that involves writing. This demonstrates you actually can write and that you arent sloppy.
Ultimately who gets hired is going to depend on resume, but if I get 20 or more applicants per position, I am looking for reasons to weed people out, and a lazy cover letter is an easy way to eliminate people.”
None. No way, no how. The candidates with stellar resumes and cover letters can interview horribly.
I don’t care at all about the cover letter. I read it as a courtesy. If you make spelling errors or grammar mistakes, it tells me you have poor attention to detail. That’s really about it.
For resumes, I much prefer concrete, data driven examples of success. “I led a team of 5” is much less impressive than “my team was able to complete project x, 10% under budget. Increased sales by y”. These examples matter. Anyone can take the buzz words and inject them into a resume.
Everyone has a different interview strategy. I have 3 things I look for: competency for the role, reliability (more like will they stay here longer than 2 years), and if I would get a long with them professionally.”
3. “I look at applications and decide who gets an interview. Echoing what people said above, resumes are WAY more important to me, but as far as the cover letter, be professional (no slang/emojis), and state your genuine interest in the company. If you don’t know about my company, I don’t care to find out about you.”
4. “To me the cover letter matters as much as the resume.
Resumes are usually chock full of things that don’t really mean much. You can really only reasonably trust the employment dates and locations – and even those you need to verify!
A cover letter can show you some personality and give you some idea of the person.
Of course this really depends on the field you’re hiring for. For the jobs I’m hiring for (IT help desk and programming mostly), a lot of people have the skills we want.”
5. “I am a hiring manager. I’ve never wanted to hire anyone “on the spot” from a cover letter. I have to meet and talk to the person; I rely on my own intuition to gauge their integrity and relational style before I get that impulse. A home-run cover letter only demonstrates to me that (a) you can communicate clearly and (b) that I don’t have to sift through a marginally-qualified applicant’s resume to find where the relevant experience is and if it’s enough. Passing those two, I’ll contact you and the psychoanalysis begins.”
6. “Cover letters are only useful to me if they provide something that can’t be seen already in the CV. If it just regurgitates what is provided elsewhere, and uses over-the-top sales/promotion style speech, that’s a sure fire way to get me to mark it lower than an application that doesn’t even have a cover letter. Overly wordy cover letters that provide me with no new information tell me that I will not want to read any reports or documents you generate as part of the job.
Some jobs require a cover letter, and may have a list of things they expect to see in them, but I rarely advertise like that. Show me your qualifications and experience and I’ll work it out from that.”
7. “I just recently hired a few people for my department. The cover letter didn’t matter to me as much, but to be honest, I would think less of the candidates without one. At this point, even a little snippet saying what you can do for the company would pass in my book, but not having one at all makes me think it’s low effort, or that you’re just applying to a bunch of different jobs with no real direction.
That being said, I looked for correct and uniform formatting on a resume along with proper punctuation and spelling, particularly because I needed people who knew how to communicate effectively over the internet. I also looked for people who listed their accomplishments and the benefits to the company/themselves as an employee rather than just regular ol’ job duties. And lastly, I was really diligent about work history.
I understand having a couple short jobs here and there, but if I saw several positions all lasting less than a year, I would definitely not call that person – especially if there was no reason for it. I interviewed a couple of people who had explanations that ended up not getting hired for other reasons, but job hopping is simply unacceptable to me. (The only exception to this in my mind was minimum wage jobs because I skipped around a shit ton of those when I was going through school.)
If you put effort into your applications, you will get noticed eventually. But you have to make an effort to reach out and make contact. Make sure someone at that business knows who you are and that you submitted a resume. Eventually you’ll find your way to the way to the right person.
I know it’s hard when you’re submitting a bunch of apps because you need a job, but the more quality they are, the less apps you’ll have to submit later on.”
8. “I’m in HR and I look for a brief synopsis of why you’re applying for this job and what from your past work experience makes you a fit for this particular position (detail achievements or particulars of experience. Succinctly). Do not be arrogant, use bombastic language or mention that you’re the best or an excellent applicant for the job. Let HR and/or the hiring managers make that call.
However, first things first, (unless it’s a job with very specific skills or that is hard to recruit) I very quickly scan the cover letter and look for proper formatting. That’s the first stage of shortlisting. For those that make the cut, I then look for relevance to the position, proper grammatical structure and flow. Letters that are not coherent, that indicate subpar written communication skills or that don’t have the profile we’re looking for have their accompanying applications set aside. Second stage done. (At this point, I already have a number of favourites). Then I look at the resumes.”
9. “I have never hired someone based on a cover letter, but I have absolutely given people with less-than-stellar resumes a chance, because they made a real case for themselves and put some of their less-impressive-sounding-on-paper achievements into context. And I have absolutely thrown away resumes because their cover letters indicated that they didn’t actually read the job posting.
We’ve got a tiny team of like 3 people, and all of us have to give up 3-4 hours to do a technical interview. If we’re giving up that much time, it’s just not worth it to us to bring in somebody who is basically carpet bombing any Stack Overflow posting with “PHP” in the body text.”
10. “I have never looked at a cover letter. It’s about as relevant as a book cover, it’s designed to sell you on the book and is in no way representative of the amount or quality of content within the book. The content of your resume is what gets your foot in my door, and I’m one of the few managers who actually bother reading resumes rather than just glancing at them and tossing them.
Yes, cover letters are absolutely pointless to any manager worth their salt. But it’s always worth sending one just in case.”
11. “I’ve never read a cover letter. I am pretty sure that when HR sends me applicants, they just send the resume and leave out the cover letter.
Honestly, I only really look at resumes for 30 seconds max before I decide if I am going to interview someone. As long as they have close to the minimum qualifications and the resume isn’t a shit show of misspelled words or terrible formatting, that is usually enough for me to speak with them if I have an open position. HR filters out the unacceptable ones first anyway, so I actually am willing to interview with most of the people they send my way.
The actual interview is far more important. As long as you have not lied on your resume, you are presumed to be capable of doing the job by the time I speak with you. I am mostly interviewing you to find out if your personality will work with my team, and to try and figure out if you will have a good attitude/work ethic.”