Why Cover Letters Are An Impediment

This is the second post about (and this time against) the cover letter. Read the first post here.

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 9.08.22 PMSo, if what we discussed in the last post is true, that cover letters provide a great way for you to present your full self to a potential employer, then why doesn’t everyone care about it? In fact, why do some places not only not care about the cover letter but actively avoid it?

Because you’re looking at this from the wrong angle. The cover letter helps you, but not necessarily a potential employer. Yeah, it allows them to get to know you, but it’s not just you and them; it’s you, them, and all of the other applicants. Considering the two key documents of the job application are the resume and cover letter, ignoring the cover letter means cutting the reading material in half, which can be a HUGE for a place that gets 500 applicants every time they want to fill one position.

And really, potential employers want the facts more than they want anything else. Do you have experience working at another established company? Good. That’s great. How you fit in there, what you learned there, and how you’ll apply what you learned to your next position doesn’t matter. Or, that’s not right, it does matter. But the potential employer has no way of knowing if you really mean it, because they have no way of knowing if the you that you’ve conveyed in the cover letter is really you (say that five times fast!).

In an interview, you need to respond quickly. Sure, you should think about the position you’re interviewing for before hand to prepare, but a good interviewer will surprise you because a good interviewer wants to know who you are, not just how well you’ve memorized the job listing.

A cover letter allows for none of this surprise. You can take a couple days to write it, revise it, show it to other people, revise it some more, show it to more people, and so on and so forth until you have a perfect sparkling letter ready to submit. Essentially, you can read between the lines of the job listing, figure out the exact kind of person the company is looking for, and write from that person’s prospective instead of your own.

Should you do that? Of course not! You should be yourself, always, because you should be applying to jobs you think you could actually do. Still, a potential employer has no way of knowing from a cover letter which approach you’ve taken, the personal or the calculated.

So, yes, cover letters can provide you with a great opportunity to sell yourself, but in the end, you have no way of guaranteeing that a potential employer will buy it or even see it.

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