Cover letters for bulk applying online? Yes or no?
February 14, 2012 7:47 PM   Subscribe

When applying for jobs online and you're asked to cut and paste a resume and answer a few questions, should you add a cover letter to the beginning?

Are cover letters really useful for those types of roles going through HR versus a Hiring Manager? I've heard of people sending out hundreds of resumes in this tough market; are they really creating targeted cover letters when applying in bulk? I've read most of the previous questions on the green already. I know the answer might be "depends on the role/industry/etc." but let's assume it's a team leader and/or manager role in a call center or retail bank.
posted by cyniczny to Work & Money (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I did ... kind of. When I was job hunting last year, I had 3 basic cover letters, and I would pick one and personalize it for each job I was applying for, so the name of the organization and the job were right, and I'd try to say something particular about my excitement about that organization or field (I was applying for EA jobs, so they ranged across many different types of organizations and fields).

When I'm in the position of reading applications, cover letters matter as much as resumes, and a cover letter that feels personal and specific and enthusiastic makes a huge difference.
posted by rosa at 7:57 PM on February 14, 2012

I, personally, spend more time reading a cover letter than the resume itself. I will say that a good cover letter will give me more and better context for the resume I'm about to read, and often encourages me to give the applicant more of a chance, if it's well written and thoughtful. The opposite is definitely not true, there have often been resumes that have crossed my desk that were intriguing, but without a cover letter I did not really feel moved to reach out. I have definitely received resumes with cover letters in them. I personally appreciate it.

tl;dr - YES.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:00 PM on February 14, 2012

Deciding to interview someone means investing 30 minutes to an hour in a phone screen. An in-person interview takes significantly longer. So employers need to pick and choose who they talk to, and someone who clearly explains why talking to him/her is a useful use of time will be high on the list.

Often, I find a cover letter useful in answer the question of 'why is this person applying for this job?' This is helpful in cases where the resume suggests the person would be competent but provides no evidence that the he/she would be happy doing the job. If someone turns out to dislike the job, they are liable to leave quickly which is a huge waste of time and effort for everyone.

Remember, the fact that you need a job is not a reason to hire you. The fact that you would be a good fit is. Providing a better reason is exactly the way to stand out from the huge pile of applicants who mass-mail every job that vaguely meets their keywords -- and at the very least, demonstrates that you read the job description.
posted by bsdfish at 11:01 PM on February 14, 2012

Best answer: I found this advice about cover letters a massive help. It's helped to land me four offers and two jobs in the past.

I'd also consider what you mean by 'bulk' application. Applying for 100 jobs a week like you're firing buckshot won't get you far - pick and choose a little at least and only apply for things you can actually see yourself doing. 25 well put together, thoughtful applications are infinitely better than 100 or 150 applications for any job you could conceivably do. Having hired in the past and been hired I could instantly tell the difference.

Read the ad, read that advice and then put some thought into it. But don't get caught in the trap of repeatedly pinning everything on one ad and then being upset when you don't hear from them or don't get an interview - that is a recipe for depression. Keep moving, keep applying, have several processes on the go at once but do it with some thought. And spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets. You need to track what you're doing so you have a sense of progress and you can keep yourself motivated.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:17 PM on February 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

The best cover letter I ever saw was a lot like the one Happy Dave links to.

Really good opening paragraph.

Chart, two columns:
Skill/Experience I said I was looking for - Reason why you fit that skill/experience

Boom. Now I know you actually read the ad and the qualifications and I can easily see how you meet up with them.

The important thing is to make it really really easy for us to like you. Don't bury your skills in long paragraphs w\full of buzzwords, tell me! Tell me so I can be interested in you!
posted by magnetsphere at 10:20 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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