Many articles have been written about the cover letter and the resume being dead. Anything based on paper is irrelevant. So in this digital age, are the cover letter and resume dead? Or at least becoming irrelevant?
No, far from it. If anything, the digital age has expanded the use of both of these job search assets, since they are keyword searchable. However, the digital age has changed how they are used. Make sure you are using them correctly.
The resume has changed from a paper document that is manually read and reviewed by a human to a digital document that is stored and searched. Instead of being active verb driven, the digital resume is keyword driven. But what about the cover letter? That quaint piece of paper that layers on top of the paper resume, neatly folded and sent through snail mail. Surely that has bit the dust, right?
Wrong. The cover letter, like the resume, has simply evolved. Instead of being a piece of paper that sits on top of another piece of paper, it is a digital message that serves as the digital intro to your digital resume. In its simplest terms, the cover letter is your email with your resume attached, when you are sending directly to a hiring manager or to a jobs@ address. But it can also be an accompanying doc to your resume when submitting your resume online or to a resume database.
So what should be included in your digital cover letter? Keep it straightforward and simple. Three key paragraphs:
- Why you are writing. If it is due to a network connection, say so. If you have internal connections, say so. Drop names. If it is in response to a job posting, name the specific job title.
- Summarize your key qualifications in relation to the job. Do a quick two or three point summary of your qualifications, but make sure it is specific to the job for which you are applying. If it is a job posting, read the job posting and make sure you cover all of the BFOQs (bona fide occupational qualifications) for the role. If you are sending based on a network connection, make sure you ask your network connection what the key attributes will be for the role and/or the employer in general. Then nail it quickly and concisely.
- Next steps. If you have contact information, note that you will be calling within the next week to arrange an interview. If you do not have contact information, state your interview availability over the next 2 weeks. Then ask for the interview.
The cover letter is an intro to your resume and provides information to the prospective employer that is valuable in the features-benefits selling of you to the employer. It is your sales tool to expand beyond the resume to help in building that first connection to get you to the first interview, your first step toward an eventual offer.