Cover Letters – Eagle or Albatross?

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Cover Letters – Eagle or Albatross?
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About the Author

Laura Machan

Laura Machan

Laura Machan is a Partner, Recruitment Solutions major human resources consulting firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Although she has been recruiting for quite a few years, she still gets a big thrill from calling someone to set up an interview and an even bigger thrill when she hears a happy dance as she tells them when their new job starts. Laura lives with her family in Oakville, where she has lived for over 25 years, and is a significant contributor to the Canadian Federation of University Women - Oakville and Women in Nuclear, Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

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People offer to send me cover letters all the time. I tell them not to bother. My job is to provide notes to my client about each candidate so in effect, I am writing the cover letter for them.

But what about when you are applying to jobs directly?

It can be tricky to decide, but whatever you do, cover letters need to be written individually.

You can have a standard paragraph in the middle but the rest of it needs to be customized every time.

If you are applying to a position online and there is no mention of a cover letter, then you probably can get away with just your resume. Many application systems have questionnaires as part of the application process. That is the company’s way of getting most of what would be in a cover letter.

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If you see a posting that asks specifically for a cover letter, then pay attention to what it’s asking for. A lot of times, an employer wants you to lay out your goals, achievements or maybe why you think you are right for them/the role.

Take a look at the tone of the ad and also look at their website. Try to get a feel for the culture and use this to decide the tone and format of your note. If the company is really creative or casual, use that style but if it seems corporate and formal, then go with that.

If you are referred by someone, you definitely need a cover letter that explains who referred you, their relationship with you and why the role matters to you.

Two points to remember:

  1. Keep your cover letter short and to the point. It is not your life story.
  2. It should talk about who you are, what you are good at and how to get in touch. All those other details are in your resume.

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