Monday, February 23, 2009

IN: Cover Notes; OUT: Cover Letters

As a fairly recent college graduate with an "informal mind-set," I feel the need to break it to the New York Times' Career Couch -- cover letters are indeed on their way out of the door, at least in the traditional sense. (Random aside, wouldn't "career coach" be a better title for the regular column?)

The recent article makes several good points, namely that it is still important for a job applicant to introduce himself with some non-résumé text, that it is vital to keep the language concise, and that following up with a hard copy may yield more interviews. (I find the last point a little hard to believe given how dismissive my peers, older colleagues and I are of paper mail, but I will give it a try when the time comes.)

However, I have to take issue with the necessity of formal cover letters, especially in this challenging job landscape. Let's say you get the 200 résumés for a job opening that this article references. How in the world are you going to sift through all that drivel (e.g., "my skills are well-suited to blah blah blah," "I will apply my enthusiasm for yada yada")? Short answer: you won't.

Wouldn't one or two paragraphs in the body of the email be enough of an introduction? I think so. And let's not dismiss the fact that we laid-back Echo Boomers are not merely the lowest on the totem pole of job applicants; we are the upcoming generation of recruiters. Most of the head hunters I have met are under 35-years-old.

So here are PAFAW's rules for writing a cover note -- not letter -- note:

1. Keep it short: 2-3 paragraphs max. (two is the sweet spot)

2. Answer three questions:
- who are you?
- why are you interested in the job?
- what skills/qualifications do you have that will help the organization reach its goals? (okay, so I kind of stole the last one from the article)

3. Do NOT rewrite parts of your résumé in paragraph form.

4. Do NOT be repetitive. If you have already said it somewhere else in the note, move on.

5. Get a second and maybe a third pair of eyes on the document before hitting the send button.

PS: if you look to the left, you will find a new sidebar with PAFAW's running list of "ins" and "outs" as they relate to my posts. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Ali said...

this is so true - and not just for b-school or school applications either - for job applications in general. my experience as an applicant and a hirer all confirm.

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