Cover Letters Are About Preference: Here’s Mine

Since announcing my contract sales positions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and this blog, I’ve gotten a number of emails. Some of them ask for more information. Others include a resume.  Not many include what has historically been called a “cover letter.”  “Experts” have poo-pooed the cover letters for years, causing job seekers to wonder “should I include a cover letter?”

Here’s a recent post citing a hiring manager at Bain on cover letters, which he says are NOT OPTIONAL.

My experience is this: I honestly have no idea if you are doing the “spray and pray” method of job search, if you are really interested in doing sales, or if you are going to give this an honest effort.

The lesson learned, for me, is that cover letters are ESSENTIAL.  I want to know that I’m not just a number, and that you read up on the opportunity and that you know something about JibberJobber.  Bonus, of course, if you are a JibberJobber user.

If you send me an email with just a resume, I don’t have much to go on.  You are asking me to sift through all kinds of data and draw a conclusion that amounts to “this person would be great for this job!”   Don’t make me sift, and don’t make me draw conclusions… give me, in your cover letter, helpful information, such as:

  • that you think you are qualified for the job, because ________.  I was talking to a recruiter who said that 80% of the applications he got (which was over 10,000 a month) were NOT QUALIFIED.  Come on people… we are better than that.  Want to stand out, and be part of the 20% the recruiter wants to seriously look at?  Tell the recruiter or hiring manager that, and why, you are qualified.
  • That you are interested in this job, and think you could excel at it, and why. Are you self-motivated? A hard worker? Driven by a commission-based compensation model, which means you have unlimited earning potential?  Do you have lots of recruiter and HR contacts?  Have you done sales before, and you are ready to get a lot of “no” answers while you find the “yes” answers? Are you a relationship builder, and love to help people come to proper solutions?

Can you ask questions? Sure.  You can let me know that you have some questions, and you look forward to learning more.  We could do that on a phone interview, or you could email me your questions.  But realize that getting me on the phone is as valuable as getting a prospect on the phone… you want to start that relationship (and so do I).

Let’s get a little more personal, and have more of a human touch.  Please, please start sending this type of information as you apply.  For every recruiter that poo-poos the idea of a cover letter, realize that there is an inexperienced hiring manager looking at this stuff who really wants more than just your name and a resume, which somehow looks the same as the thirty other resumes they’ve just been given.