You’ve read the books, you’ve sat at the feet of experts. You’ve even googled a site or two. You must have a cover letter expounds one and many. But to truly understand the value of a cover letter, you need be on the side of the desk receiving it.
In fact, the Wall Street Journal once opined that the “Cover letter provides much needed information”. Notwithstanding that this was an opinion published in 1936. It was only a couple decades later that employers actually started asking and using the term “cover letters”. (Credit to Steven Lurie for the insightful research)
The cover letter is simply the opening act to the main event. It’s like Justin Bieber warming up the stage for Elvis Presley (And yes, he’s still alive).
I have reviewed many many tens of thousands of resumes in my 15 years in recruiting. If memory serves me right, I have glanced at no more than 10 cover letters. (Those were the slow days I suspect). We left the world of typewriters a decade or two back. No more are resumes sent in by mail. I mean the real mail. The one where a postal employee physically carries it from one place to another. Back in the days when the folks reading it had time to get a cup of coffee and sit down to slowly review the contents of the In tray. Circa 1930-1990.
I shall not delve into the varying philosophies, etiquettes, cultures, accepted practices or displays of a candidate’s enthusiasm and/or professionalism. There are many differing opinions. Let’s just talk math.
I’ve articulated it here before but for ease of understanding, I shall risk repeating myself. Each job posting will receive between 200 to 300 applicants. And at times, upwards of 500. A recruiter typically manages 15-30 open positions. (When I was working with the world’s fast growing company in its heyday, recruiters were carrying between 70 and 90 each).
Grab your calculator folks, we got some crunching to do…
- An easy day = 200 applicants x 15 open positions = 3,000 resumes to review
- A normal day = 250 x 30 = 7,500
- A “I hate my job” day = 300 x 90 = 27,000
Granted, not all is expected to be completed in a day (Fact is, most will not even be seen), but the numbers are nonetheless unfriendly to say the least.
Recruiters are already struggling just to get to your resume, much less have the time to study your cover letter. That said, a small percentage of old-school hiring managers do still look out for one. My advice is to send that over when you have been called in for an interview. Don’t fret about it when you are at the starting line.
This article first appeared in LinkedIn Pulse here.