When I was applying for jobs I hated writing cover letters. I felt like they were a waste of time, no one was going to read them, and I never knew what to say. After spending a year as an evaluator I cringe at how wrong I was in those days. Your cover letter is more important than your resume.
If you don’t send a cover letter your resume won’t be looked at
Submitting to a job posting without a cover letter is a quick click of a few buttons on most job posting sites, but so is filing an application into “not qualified.” If you are lucky and we have time, then we might email you back and ask you to send one, but in most cases it’ll just be filed under “not qualified.” This isn’t because it’s some petty test of due diligence, it’s because it is genuinely important in our evaluation process for the reasons I’m sharing with you.
The cover letter helps us understand how you see the position
One of the challenges in hiring is that, no matter how well the job description is written, everyone understands job titles, roles, and responsibilities a little differently. Writing why you feel you are a fit and how your skills and experience relate to the job description help in bridging the gap of understanding. If it’s well written then it can frame the interview process moving forward, and starts off the interview process as a conversation instead of a mining expedition. Finally, it helps us understand what you see as your biggest strengths and has opened the door to alternate positions for applicants.
The cover letter is how we evaluate written communication skills.
We are a distributed company with Web Chefs located around the world. Our clients are also almost 100% remote and an increasing amount of our communication is in the form of emails and chat. In the interview process we are evaluating your communication skills and style as well as your technical ability. The cover letter serves as an evaluation of written communication skills. Even when we get referrals or applications through more informal channels we ask them to write a cover letter for this reason alone. Written communication skills don’t just mean good spelling and grammar, it’s how you communicate ideas and what your written personality feels like.
Most importantly, the cover letter is how we can start to get to know each other.
Let’s be honest: resumes suck. It’s very hard to get to know someone from a chronological list of their prior work and a laundry list of skills. The cover letter is an opportunity to start a conversation and for us to get to know what makes you tick. Not to mention how you view the job and what makes you excited about it, plus how you see yourself succeeding in it. Understanding how you see yourself in the position helps us start to do the same. It offers you the opportunity to convey your excitement and your personality in ways that a resume never can. It also offers you the opportunity to take charge in the conversation around any weaknesses. Maybe you are over qualified but want to move from management back to being a maker or maybe you have less experience than we are looking for but you are a very fast learner. Without the backstory your experience is opaque and trying to understand what you saw in the fit is a guessing game. A good cover letter feels like the start of a relationship, and in the end that is what the whole process is all about.