How to write an effective cover letter that will be read. A recruiter speaks out!

Effective cover letter
Don’t you wish you had these guys announcing your resume?

Cover letters get a bad rap

Most candidates do not know how to write an effective cover letter. We at Career Tracker have been recruiting for years, are still in the game, and see a lot of cover letters. We have seen a lot of changes as it relates to the job application process. Cover letters have seen as much of a change as any part of the application process. 

10 years ago, 90% of the applications we received included a cover letter. It might have been a very poor cover letter, but we saw the effort. Today, 10% of the applications we receive include cover letters and frankly, it shows a lack of effort.  This is a big mistake. Just creating a cover letter, even if it is ineffective, can help you stick out in a crowd of applications. 

Going deep into cover letters

Today weare going to share:

  • Why the cover letter is important
  • How to write an effective cover letter that will generate results
  • Why we believe applicants don’t use them anymore

Along the way, we will provide the business logic and background on our observations. We aren’t just going to tell you what you should do. We are going to explain why you should consider our approach because ours is the viewpoint of the hiring manager and the recruiter.

Most cover letters are not reviewed or even read

I will be the first to admit this. Personally, I don’t read 90% of the cover letters that come across my desk. But don’t worry about the 90% we are not reading. Ask us about the 10% of the effective cover letters that are being read and generating excitement.

  • Why are recruiters reading some cover letters and not reading others?
  • What makes these cover letters so effective and others worth passing to the recycle bin?
  • Can I write an effective cover letter?

These are the questions we want to ask and yes, Career Tracker has free templates that will make it very easy for you to write an effective cover letter. 

First, let’s talk about a few observations we at Career Tracker have made over the years and decades of recruiting experience.

What the cover letter does not do

  1. Your cover letter is not going to generate a job offer. Let us say this one more time. Your cover letter is not going to generate a job offer. Generating a job offer is not the purpose of the cover letter The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest in you as a candidate that the recruiter wants to find out more about you. The purpose of the cover letter is to make an introduction to your resume. Nothing more. In the same manner that verbal introductions at a party are quick, cover letters are short.
  2. The cover letter should not provide a lot of opinions about your performance. Remember, all candidates think they are “hard workers”, “quick learners”, or “focused and determined”. These are qualitative opinions. Consequently, most cover letters read the same. Quantitative cover letters with numbers and facts are exponentially more effective. 

What the effective cover letter does

  1. Your cover letter is literally a “cover sheet” for your resume. The cover letter is an introduction to your list of accomplishments.
  2. The purpose of the effective cover letter is to introduce your resume in such a way that the reader becomes excited to look at the resume.

Dating example

How would you feel if someone just handed you a resume with no background information? Just hands you a single sheet of paper and doesn’t explain themselves. You might read it, but if you have 20 open positions, how do you determine which position this resume is trying to generate interest in.

Boy wants to ask girl to prom

Boy knocks on girl’s door. Girl opens door. Boy just stands there too shy to say anything. Our boy has no game! Is girl supposed to figure out that he is there to ask her to the dance? Girl is not a mind reader. If boy doesn’t say anything, girl sighs, turns around and shuts the door. Girl leaves boy on the porch with open mouth. Make moves son!

If boy had trumpeters to announce his arrival and a gentleman’s gentleman to announce him, that would make an impression.

After the trumpeters finish their Duh Duh Duh Dahhhhh, our wingman steps in:

“Ms. Suzy Future Prom Date, may I present to you, Johnny Big Man on Campus, here to ask you out to the prom.”

The effective cover letter is playing the role of the gentleman’s gentleman. The effective cover letter is the trumpeters and the announcement. The resume is set up for success.  

Reverse engineer the cover letter

It is not unusual for a recruiter to have 20 open positions and receive 20 applications a day for each position. This is 400 applications a day our recruiter must review. These numbers are not uncommon and the 20 applications a day per position is low.

No one is going to read 400 full-page cover letters a day. Full-page cover letters are too long and are usually the candidate telling us how hard-working, ambitious and determined they are.

The way to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager is to write the shortest and easiest to read cover letter we can. The effective cover letter that accomplishes this goal will highlight exactly what the hiring manager is looking for and nothing more.  

Next week, how to write a cover letter that highlights exactly what the hiring manager is looking for. If you can’t wait for that post, check out the Career Tracker, Cover Letter Templates here.

Key Takeaway: You absolutely should write a cover letter because our templates are reviewed by hiring managers. 

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