Stop! Don't Send That Cover Letter
I agree with the article -- cover letters are dead.
I used to write advice columns about how to write excellent cover letters. I haven’t written a story like that in over ten years, because cover letters are dead.
They died along with the accent on the word ‘resume’ and the beige, pink or pale-blue nubbly paper we used to put in the printer when we wanted to print out our resumes.
The nubbly paper, the accent on ‘resume’ and the cover letter are all artifacts. They dropped out of the picture in the job-search world a decade ago, and they’re not coming back.
Cover letters made sense when we sent our resumes through the mail. A cover letter sent with your resume gave the hiring manager or a screener in HR a preview of your resume and a chance to see how you write full sentences — resumes at that time being written in short, governmental sentence fragments like “motivated self-starter” and “works well with all levels of staff.”
The old-fashioned resume style is out the window, and cover letters are history too. Everything we used to say in a cover letter is a waste of paper and ink now. “I was intrigued to see your job ad…” goes without staying. You sent a resume, didn’t you? It stands to reason that you were intrigued.
“The job sounds like a perfect fit for my background…” We know, my darling. That’s why you wrote in the first place. We figured that out on our own.
Traditional cover letter language is just as bad as traditional resume-speak like “Results-oriented professional” and “skilled at managing cross-functional teams.” This is the way robots speak, not living, breathing people. We can put a human voice in our resumes now, write in full sentences and come out from behind the zombie corporate boilerplate.
Here’s a Summary at the top of a Human-Voiced Resume:
I made my way into HR after fifteen years in Accounting, where I was drawn to the human stories behind the numbers. Now I manage Compensation and Benefits to give my teammates the best and most cost-effective benefits programs available at the best price.
I’m a zealot for careful reporting to senior management and for communication about pay and benefits that lets every team member know how and when he or she gets paid and the logic behind his or her compensation scheme. I’m looking for a growing organization that views compensation as a critical part of its culture, the way I do.
A few things come across in her Summary:
- She knows who she is. She knows what she plans to do next in her career. She isn’t saying as so many job-seekers do, “You tell me what you want me to do, Your Majesty.”
- She has a particular viewpoint on her field. She cares about communicating with employees about their pay and benefits, and not every Comp and Benefits Manager has that focus. This job-seeker appeals to certain hiring managers and not to others, as we all do. She’s making that distinction plain! She doesn’t have time to waste with executives who aren’t likely to appreciate her style.
- She was an Accountant for fifteen years. She changed careers after a decade and a half in one field. She’s a person who’s not afraid to make changes.
Would you interview this Comp and Benefits Manager? A lot of CEOs would.This particular woman isn’t on the job market anymore. She got hired not long after she started sending out Human-Voiced Resumes with this Summary at the top, and posted the same Summary to her LinkedIn profile.