The role of a cover letter is to introduce the applicant to the recruiter and build an instant rapport. It also is a method to quickly highlight the best reasons why you feel you are best suited for the job opening. Looking at the cover letter from these angles, it looks like a good idea. However, the trend of today says otherwise.
A quick survey by leading online recruiting agencies showed that less than 3% of recruiters are even aware about cover letters; while 90% of offline recruiters avoided the cover letter even if they saw it.
Why is the Importance of the Cover Letter Minimized?
Let us take another look at the role of the cover letter vis-à-vis the requirements of a recruiter. The cover letter is meant to “announce” or “highlight” the merits of the applicant and is an attempt to forge a bond with the recruiter preconditioning him to interpret the CV/resume as most suitable for the job vacancy. However, most recruiters fail to read the resume because:
- There is No Time – In realty, recruiters do not have enough time to go through a cover letter and then again through the resume/CV. So, to save time they focus of the CV/ resume and try to match as quickly as possible the qualifications/experience/skills with the requirements for the job specifications. The applicants with the best perceived match are shortlisted for interview.
- Online Applications – Most recruiters today advertise for online applications, which more often than not come with pre-formatted application forms. Even if they are not, they would shift through the applications with the help of specific keywords, which would draw out the best matched (according to the keywords) CV/resumes. The cover letters would neither be keyword optimized, nor indexed in such a search.
- Computerization of Applications Received – Those who prefer hard copies of applications still use computers to analyze the applications received. In this case, data entry operators would be trained to shift through the CV/resume and fill in pre-formatted applications forms. These could be easily searched for the best candidates/contenders for the job through job-specific, requirement-specific keywords. Once again, there is no scope for the resume to be read.
Experts therefore advise applicants not to bother about a cover letter unless it is explicitly asked for. It would be best to instead focus on customizing your resume/CV so it looks like you are the best possible matched candidate for the said job.
The first and most prominent item on your resume if your name and contact information. Your name is typically in the largest font, standing apart from all other text on your resume. A common mistake professionals make is trying to emphasize their name in a special font type. As it is difficult to anticipate the software and its version your potential employer is using, you run a risk of not knowing exactly how your name will show up on their screen.
Stick to the basic font types – Arial and Times New Roman are most commonly used and are least risky when it comes to formatting your resume. Don’t go overboard on the font size either. Your name should be in point size 14 or 16; all other headings should be in 12 or 14 point font, while the remaining text of your resume should be between 10 and 12 points. Along with your name, the very top of your resume should contain your mailing address, your email address, and at least one phone number where you can be reached. It is best to include a physical mailing address over a P.O. Box, whenever possible. You should never include an email address at your current place of employment (believe us, it happens). A helpful hint about listing your email address – make sure that it contains your name, as this helps you appear more professional. You can create a free Yahoo email account; it also maybe helpful to have one email address as a point of contact for your job search. At least one phone number should be listed; make sure to indicate if you are listing a home or a mobile number. If you have a professional web site, you can include the address to it along with your contact information. Please note, only do so if there isn’t anything on the web site that is personal; the only reason your potential employer may want to look at a web site is if your professional portfolio or a copy of your resume can be found there.
Whether you decide to create a chronological or a functional resume, you will need to separate the information by headings. The best advice we can give you is to keep the section headings professional and stick to the basics. Don’t try to come up with creative titles for your professional summary, or for your qualifications. Your chronological resume should have the following sections/titles:
- career objective
- professional summary (optional)
- professional experience/work experience/experience
- publications/special achievements (if applicable)
- references/references and portfolio
A functional resume is slightly different, and the headings you chose will truly depend on the skills you are trying to highlight. You should include:
- career objective
- professional skills/professional qualifications (this section will include sub-headings as they relate to specific qualifications you want to promote, such as communications, customer relations, managements, etc.)
- work experience/work history (if applicable; should only include dates, titles, companies and locations without listing responsibilities)
- volunteer work/activities (if applicable)
These are the typical sections of chronological and functional resumes. Do some research on resume styles and find sample resumes of professionals in your industry. You may need to adjust these headings based on your field, although the content should be consistent across industries. Stick to the basics; don’t try to be creative in order to stand out. A professional and polished resume will get you noticed, so do your best to create a resume that is error free and best supports your career objective.