Cover Letters and E-Notes for Career Changers and Job Seekers? -Redundant, Recommended, or Required
Career changers and job seekers often have questions about cover letters. If you’re uncertain about what to include in your cover letter, or even if you should write one at all, read this post.
There is no single solution for all career changers.
Here are key questions to consider to help you choose the best approach for your personal situation.
Let’s begin by asking “why write a cover letter?”
Should Career Changers and Job Seekers Write Cover Letters? If so, Why?
A cover letter is typically a brief document (not more than one page) that job applicants write to decision-makers such as hiring managers, charged with selecting the best person for the job.
As a candidate, how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates who also satisfy the requirements for the job?
A well-written cover letter is one way to achieve this.
How To Write A Cover Letter
As with all written career communications, form and presentation matter. The format and means of sending will vary depending on the system used by the hiring organization.
You may use a traditional letter form. More often, your cover letter will be in the form of an e-note, delivered by email, or by uploading to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
The content should be both customized for each position and user-friendly. As more organizations rely on automation to streamline hiring, it even more important to find ways to connect with the humans that are part of the system!
The cover letter or e-note should tell the reader right away why they should spend more than six seconds or so scanning your application. Hopefully the result of a more in-depth review is that your application is added to the short-list pile.
What can you include in your cover letter that will strengthen your case? This is the time to try to step back and consider the employers’ perspective. As an applicant you have expertise about the job. You can do research to find out more about the company. Use what you know to make better choices about the content of your letter.
The tone of your letter is also important. This may be your best opportunity at this stage to make a person-to-person connection with key decision-makers.
Think not only about requirements for the job, but also about the soft skills that you have developed. Use specific examples to back up the assertions you make about your skills and abilities.
Read the letter aloud. Does it sound friendly? Ask a trusted colleague or friend for feedback.
When Not To Write a Cover Letter (and When you Should)
If the job application instructions specifically tell candidates not to send a cover letter, then the decision is easy. Simply follow this direction.
Maybe, you’ve read headlines along the lines of “the cover letter is dead” or listened to debates about the demise of cover letters. If there are no specific instructions, should you write one?
Of course, it’s up to you.
But for most career changers and job seekers, why not? The cover letter is a unique opportunity to communicate less formally but still professionally.
If you’ve been involved in recruitment and selection, you know first-hand the time it takes to select new employees. Hiring decision-makers are likely to be juggling this with their day-to-day work. It’s time-consuming for both candidates and for employers.
If you write a strong succinct letter or e-note, with strategically chosen content, you can make it easier for decision-makers to connect what you offer with what they are seeking.
Once you’ve take the time to write your first cover letter, subsequent letters can be quickly customized to target a specific position. The time you spend preparing will also help you in later phases of the selection process, including interview.
Unless the instructions specifically tell you not to include a cover letter, why not take the opportunity to potentially strengthen your application?
Better Cover Letters for Career Changers: Summary
It’s important to remember that your cover letter is but one element of your written career communication. But, it is an element that offers you more choice about the content.
As you consider what to write, ask yourself what to include that will add to your resume or CV. Avoid repeating the same information
Instead, make the most of this unique opportunity to communicate both who you are and how you can contribute.
Jennifer Bradley helps professionals get unstuck and move forward in their career and work life. She offers individual coaching and consulting, leads workshops, and writes about personal and professional transitions.