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Hiring managers: Do you read cover letters?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by imjustagirl, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    With the upcoming change in employment, my company has been having lots of seminars/classes for us to prepare better for a job search. The job recruiters they've brought in have said they absolutely, positively never read a cover letter. They also only look at the top third of a resume. So your name, address, mission statement and probably most recent job. That's it.

    My former boss says he does read them, and wants them to be five grafs or fewer.

    So, considering I'm looking inside journalism but in a totally different field than sports, how important is a cover letter? I'm leaning toward it being uber important since my resume is going to scream sports instead of the job that's posted, but if they're not going to read it anyway ...

  2. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    The cover letter is a double-edged sword.
    It can scream skilled, qualified candidate if written properly.
    But if it has typos and/or grammatical errors, it sends your resume and letter on a one-way ticket to the wastebasket.
  3. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Well mine wouldn't have THOSE.

    It was just a question of whether they are worth the effort. Especially when trying to switch fields. If they're not going to read it and only look at my resume, what's the point of spending four hours crafting a great cover letter?
  4. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    On the first run through resumes, if a cover letter is short, I'll read it. If not, I may scan it. I spend very little time with these. The resume/work samples will be much more important to me (I'm hiring designers, so I want to see pages; when I'm looking at stuff for copy editors, I want to see good work experience). If you're looking to sell yourself, do it quick.

    And I never waste time on mission statements and such when I go through resumes. Maybe on my second pass when I've culled the wheat from the chaff I'll give it more look, but not on the first pass.

    But I'll say this, I put some weight in the fact someone bothered to write one. Not writing one can communicate you didn't think the opening was worth taking the time to write a cover letter. Even if I don't read it completely, I appreciate people taking the time to write one. If you want someone to pay attention to it, the key is brevity. Three to five short paragraphs. Get to the point and sell yourself fast.
  5. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    That's usually what I do. And I was definitely going to write one. The question was how many hours to spend on it. If it's getting skimmed, I'll go largely boilerplate. If writing something great could make a difference, then I'll do it.
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I've had several interviews over the past few weeks for jobs in academia and the political field, and it's clear my cover letters aren't being read. But you have to write at least a boilerplate one to at least jump through the first set of hoops.

    IJAG, are you spending at least 20 minutes applying for each job?
  7. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    I spend hours on a cover letter that matters to me. If the rest of the application is "upload your resume and add your address" then I'm not spending 20 minutes on that part. But I'd say probably 2-3 hours for each one that matters.
  8. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I have worked in the unemployment office (I got laid off) ;) and I write resumes professionally.

    It is absolutely critical. You get three paragraphs to convince them, "This goes in the look at the resume pile."
  9. reformedhack

    reformedhack Well-Known Member

    IJAG, I am a hiring editor, and you're getting some pretty accurate advice from the previous posters. But I'll share my point of view ... most of which will echo what you've already heard.

    I do want a cover letter. It tells me that you're paying attention and applying for a specific job rather than spraying and praying. I don't need much, though. A basic, four-paragraph format works just fine.

    1st graf: Tell me which job you're applying for (because I might have several unique openings) and if someone I know recommended you apply for it. ("Our mutual friend, John Smith, forwarded your contact information to me about your opening for Executive Agate Editor. I'm interested in discussing this opening with you.")

    2nd graf: Tell me why I should look at your resume. In other words, tell me how you can help my company. Don't rehash your resume, but do sell yourself a little bit. And remember that you're telling me what you bring to the table ("I can help you ...") rather than what I can do for you ("I'm looking to do something different with my life ...").

    3rd graf: You can elaborate a little bit more on the second graf, if you'd like. An relevant anecdote or short story -- but not your resume in narrative form -- is good, too. This graf is optional, as long as your first and second grafs leave me with the idea that you are applying specifically for this job and you understand what I'm looking for.

    4th (and final) graf: Wrap it up. Let me know if you've enclosed/attached anything (resume, clips, etc.). Tell me when you're available and I can best reach you. And thank me for my time and consideration.

    That's really all any hiring editor needs today.

    I don't recommend it, because attention spans are very short these days, but if you decide to go rogue, make sure it's damned compelling. I once sent a cover letter to a very respected sports editor that opened with one sentence -- "Emmitt Smith wanted me dead." -- and then proceeded to tell a story about how I once broke a story Smith was not at all happy with. The last couple of grafs were more conventional, tying the Smith anecdote to the job opening. He called to say that he couldn't fly me in because they wanted to hire locally, but just wanted to congratulate me on a great cover letter. (Honest.) Given today's job market, I'm not sure I'd take that kind of risk again.

    Good luck to you, IJAG.
  10. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    in my experiences on the hiring side, since i preferred emails i never really cared whether there was a cover letter or just a short sentence or two of introduction in the body of the email. i went straight to the work samples and then resumes.
  11. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    reformed: Thanks. That Smith story sounds kick-ass. :)
  12. jackfinarelli

    jackfinarelli Well-Known Member

    When I was involved in hiring new folks:

    1. I read cover letters carefully - - so long as they were a page or less. I came to the conclusion that if you could not introduce yourself and your resume in less than a page of text, I would not want to have to read any project progress reports you may have to concoct.

    2. I would read resume's in two modes.

    2a. I start reading carefully looking for indications of someone who is looking for a long-term commitment to a career and not a stepping-stone position.

    2b. If I get that sense, then I begin to parse the resume to try to determine the depth of the qualifications of the potential hire. If I do not get that sense, I move on.

    That is just one person's way of sorting out applicant documents when there are more applicants than positions by a lot. If it were the other way around - - lots of jobs and only a handful of applicants - - I am sure I would have to adjust my thinking/reading quickly.

    Good luck - - and hope that helps.
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