As one of your most powerful job search tools, a well-written, targeted resume markets you. But first, a good cover letter (carefully crafted & customized) needs to help open the door. And even nowadays, with automated resume screenings your first hurdle to cross, a good cover letter can still make a big difference.
It’s true that impersonal, heartless computer screenings may keep your application from ever getting seen by human eyeballs. (So it pays to try to find direct connections to bypass those computers.) But once you make it through to a real-person, a strong cover letter can get your resume from the maybe pile to the “set up an interview” pile. And follow you all along the interview process.
Good cover letters target company needs
Yes … we naturally see cover letters as a place to talk about ourselves and how great we are. And while you certainly want to do that, one critical piece you need to remember is this: the company is zeroing in on how well you fit THEIR needs — and not how interesting or fun you might be as a person.
When I screened resumes, I would often get long, heartfelt cover letters from people who want to tell me their life stories. Or focus on some aspect of who they are at the core of their being. All this to get me to pick their resume.
But are they really thinking about how willing a reader might be to wade through all that? And what a cover letter really needs to do? Not just pique interest in a stranger’s life story, but how you and your life story somehow have all coalesced to give them the exact person they need at this precise moment.
And that means they have to see that you get who they are, and not just who you are. So as quickly as possible they need to sense that you fit their job. A good cover letter points them precisely to key matching areas, while also giving them a feel for who you are — but who you are as a potential member of their team.