You’ve read the resumes, and they’re stellar. So do you really need to read the cover letters? While some may insist that cover letters are unnecessary, these documents can give you deeper insight into each individual candidate. Here are some things to look for in the cover letter that can help the best applicant really shine:
Is it Specialized?
One of the first indicators of an outstanding candidate may be a specialized cover letter. All too often, candidates create one generic resume and cover letter package that they use to apply to all jobs, regardless of the position or industry. Your business deserves more than a generic template. So, look for cover letters that have been tailored or individualized to fit your specific industry or job description.
While resumes may be impartial and difficult to differentiate from prefabricated templates, cover letters should not read like an automated message. Instead, they should be distinct and individual, offering the hiring manager insight into the candidate and their interest in the company. The best cover letters are the ones that go beyond stating individual interests and speak to the company culture or mission, as this indicates a candidate who has done their homework and who is interested in the company as a whole, rather than just the position.
Does it Demonstrate Good Communication Skills?
Cover letters are also a great opportunity to gauge the written communication skills of a potential candidate. Being able to write effectively is essential in nearly all work environments, and the cover letter should demonstrate a candidate’s command of these skills. Does the candidate use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling? Are his or her sentences easily understood and clearly stated? Is the letter formatted properly? If a candidate hasn’t mastered these basic skills, they won’t be able to write up reports, create memos, or write emails to clients to a standard befitting a modern business. Additionally, some managers may be sticklers for length, arguing that cover letters should be no more than a page, but no less than two paragraphs. Others assert that the ideal cover letter should fill about 75% of a page. However, cover letter length shouldn’t be your first concern. As long as the letter is well-written, personal and makes a statement about the candidate that is clear and engaging, the cover letter may be as short or as long as the candidate likes.
Does it Make the Candidate Stand Out?
Ideally, a cover letter should act as a first interview before any phone or face-to-face interviews take place. While resumes may illustrate a candidate’s skills, education and prior work history, these documents are often brief and barebones, seeking to offer up only the most important information as quickly as possible. Resumes, by necessity, are very impersonal, so the cover letter should be the more the personal side of an applicant’s submission, offering hiring managers insight into the candidate and filling in the gaps in the resume.
More than skills and education, the best cover letters showcase a candidate’s personal and professional growth throughout the course of their career, highlight talent and interests outside the job description and help to gauge how well that applicant may fit into the existing company culture.
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