Resumes, Cover Letters Go Together

Q.  Someone told me to only send resumes after developing interest from a prospective employer through a strong sell-in letter or phone call.  Another person told me I didn’t need to waste my time with a cover letter, just send resumes.  I’m confused.  -AL

A.  I hope no one is paying for that bad advice, but it seems to be catching on.  Hiring managers report receiving an increasing number of long, wordy letters without resumes. 

It is essential to send both a resume and cover letter, ideally by email.  Some individuals also send a hard copy.  If you opt for that approach, be sure to note on the letter that it is a copy of an already submitted email version.  (Most people prefer electronic copies, although the back up hard copy shows additional initiative). 

The cover letter should be brief–no more than a few short paragraphs.  It must summarize the relevance of your experience to the position for which you are applying.  Don’t overstate qualifications; let the resume speak for itself.  If you are not applying for a specific position, simply express your interest in being considered for any appropriate opening within the organization.  Per my earlier post, don’t include lofty goals or objectives. 

4 thoughts on “Resumes, Cover Letters Go Together

  1. Thanks for your advice, Ron. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the generic cover letter formats that students often find online through simple Google searches. Rather than following generic formats that “everyone else” will write, I’ve been advised to write with more creativity and inject more personality.

  2. Jamie–You’re getting the right advice. Avoid generic cover letters. Each letter should be personalized, and it is important to mention something that proves that you have relevant knowledge about the firm with whom you are applying. Always try to address it to a real person, rather than To Whom It May Concern or Sir/Madame.

  3. I think it’s important to acknowledge the phone call suggestion. That should be your initial and follow-up tactics. Decide which one is more appropriate based on the employer and their requests. We’ve all seen the job postings that say, “No phone calls, please!” As an alternative, send an email. A initial contact and follow-up contact are the two pieces of bread that help you to package yourself to a prospective employer. Good luck!

  4. I’ve learned an important part of the cover letter is to SHOW not just tell why you are qualified for the position. Like you said, let the resume speak for itself. Also, brevity is important, because many employers may skip over lengthy, hard-to-read cover letters.

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