A young woman who was working as an intern recently asked me if she should send a cover letter with her resume. Her internship was ending soon, and she was seeking a full-time job with benefits.
The woman explained to me that she has been receiving mixed advice from her friends. Some told her not to waste her time sending in a cover letter because most hiring managers don’t read them anymore. Others told her that sending a cover letter would make her appear more professional.
Here is my answer – yes, you should definitely write a cover letter.
Here’s why – with HR and sales managers receiving hundreds of resumes a year, you need to do everything you can to distinguish yourself from the crowd. While it may be true that most hiring managers may not read (or at best just glance at) your letter, at least it will make you stand out.
Almost every employer and sales manager I have spoken to have told me that if a salesperson doesn’t send his cover letter along with his resume, that person’s job application is immediately deleted or ignored.
Even companies that give you the “option” of submitting a cover letter, I should still send one. Why?
Because the employer is testing you to see how professional and driven you are to succeed in sales. You see, if you are going to be lazy when it comes to job hunting by not sending a cover letter, you may be lazy when it comes to generating sales. Are you going to make only two sales calls or 8 to reach the decision-maker? Are you going to write short but interesting emails to your prospects, or copy and paste the same stale email that you are sending to everyone? Are you going to occasionally come in early and stay late to hit your quota, or are you just going to be a 9-to-5 employee?
Sometimes you have to take your own initiative. I once applied for a sales position for a start-up company that did not give you the option online to submit a cover letter. Yes, you had to complete an application and send in your resume, but it appeared that no cover letter was required.
Puzzled and confused, I found the email address of both the CEO and the HR Manager. I sent them both my resume and cover letter. I explained I was taking this action because I didn’t see a place to submit my cover letter. I further told them that I felt it would be unprofessional for me to just send them my resume without an attached letter.
A day later, the CEO apologized to me for not putting a cover letter option on the company’s website. A couple of days later, I received an email from the HR manager inviting me to take a phone interview.
In the eyes of both the CEO and HR manager, I showed them the initiative and willingness to go beyond the call of duty to apply for the job.
I passed the test.
I once worked with an employer who gave all sales applicants an interesting test – before you sent in your cover letter and resume, you had to call a special phone number and leave a voicemail about a product or service that you were selling. It didn’t matter what product or service you were calling about, but you obviously had to sound enthusiastic and give a clear reason why the prospect would want to return your phone call. Once you left the message, you would then send you your cover letter and resume on the company’s website.
Would you believe that more than 80% of all job applicants did not follow instructions! They either didn’t bother to call and leave a message, or they only sent in their resume without their cover letter.
As a result, 80 % were put in the “delete pile” and were not called back.
While a cover letter (and resume) alone may not determine if you have the drive and determination to succeed in sales, first impressions do matter. Your cover letter and resume only give your potential employer a quick peek at who you are. But in most cases, sending in both a cover letter and resume is your only way of getting your foot in the door to get that first (and maybe several) interviews before getting the job offer.
In the age of Twitter and email, cover letters may be considered old fashion. And while most potential employers could probably read your LinkedIn profile to learn about you, sometimes it’s the little things that stand out.
Be old fashion. Be professional. Write a cover letter.
Here are two sites that I recommend on how to write a good cover letter –
“6 Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter,” by Seth Porges
“How to Write a Cover Letter” by Amy Gallo