How long does it take you to write a cover letter?
Do you just have a template and you stick new names in it? I find that hard to do, and it seems to take AGES to customize stuff and still go through the crap that is standard. I know that you’re supposed to customize your resume too, but that takes even longer. And then I wonder if I’ve just wasted my time.
Does anyone just skip the cover letter entirely, and has that ever resulted in a positive outcome?
I want to have a cover letter like this:
Your job on offer. Perfect! My resume fits. When should I stop in?
I use a standard letter and just change a few items here and there. I have my letter in the body of my email and I attach my resume.
Results are moderate.
The experience on your resume is 2000000 times more important than the content of your cover letter. I’ve heard a few hiring managers say they skip the cover letter and open the resume first. With so many applications, there’s no time to read cover letters.
So I’ll send the resume and the haiku. (jk) I can’t tell you how many plausible opportunities I’ve passed on over the years because I haven’t been able to compose what I think is a satisfactory cover letter rapidly, and I think I just need to force myself to let it go.
Today, I see something that looks interesting, and I don’t want to do the same thing this time.
I have a pretty versatile cover letter and also have worked with clients to develop something that requires “minimal customization” depending on employer. Also I think 90%of cover letters I’ve ever seen are too long; people often feel the need to explain much more about their transitions and what they learned at each role, whereas usually all a hiring manager cares about is that the 3-4 salient things they are looking for are mentioned in your cover letter, and more importantly you sound like someone that really knows the industry.
Here’s an example for someone hoping to break into equity research – I could come up with something for other industries too but I’m going to use equity research as an example since I was responsible for making hiring decisions there and screened several hundred resumes/cover letters:
Excerpt A: “I seek employment in technology equity research because I am most interested in learning how to analyze stocks, and my engineering background has made me highly quantitative and good at financial modeling.”
Excerpt B: “I believe I am a strong fit to join your research team – managing my personal portfolio has taught me the value of generating differentiated investment ideas, which I understand is of utmost importance through speaking with several associates at your firm. Furthermore, my five years of experience as a semiconductor engineer give me confidence that I can ramp up on the tech sector with minimal oversight.”
Excerpt A is fine, but excerpt B is better because it shows that you can “talk the talk” (“differentiated investment ideas”), that you know senior analysts hate to handhold associates (“minimal oversight”), and most importantly, you like to invest on your own (“personal portfolio”). Excerpt B also shows that you’ve done some real legwork by speaking with people employed at your target firm.
Also, if your cover makes it sound like you understand the job already as Excerpt B has accomplished, the rest of the cover letter can be relatively short since you’ve already convinced the HR manager that you’re not just some uninformed person looking for a job on Wall Street.
Cover letters definitely matter more if you’re trying to make a career transition. For me, if I were looking for another buy side job, my cover letter would be about eight sentences, mostly in bullet point form. However, for people looking to switch industries, a more detailed discussion of why you are a qualified and prepared candidate looking to transition in the form of a cover letter is necessary in my opinion.
I often wonder, if someone is transitioning, do they just eye the resume, decide that the person isn’t already in the industry, and then throw away the cover letter without reading it (along with the 10-second-scanned resume).
Fortunately for me, I’m no longer transitioning, as I realize my cover letters now talk about what I’ve done and what I can do, rather than why I’d like to do stuff.
I need to figure out how to condense into bullet points… I think those get read more easily, and the point of the cover letter is to focus the reader on the parts of your resume that they should pay attention to that might not immediately jump out at them.
So, one week later, and I finally have a cover letter that I think is reasonably good. I used less good ones in the interim, but, like any writing, you start, and then you polish and polish and polish until something good comes out. Unless there’s a hard deadline, of course.
Hopefully the next time I need one, it won’t take this long.
If I’m applying to a job with an actual email address attached to it, or a smaller firm where I think a person will get it in their inbox:
Hi Joe Smith,
Please accept my application for the BLANK position. SENTENCE ABOUT WHY I AM APPLYING OR AWARENESS OF THE COMPANY.
I’ve attached my resume for your consideration, but to summarize my qualifications, 3 highlights, generally one about relevant work experience, CFA, undergrad if it stands out.
I’d appreciate the opporunity to further discuss your specific needs and how I might be able to add value to the BLANK team. Sentence about how what the company does is where I want to be or aligned with my investment outlook. Thanks for your time.
I’m 3/3 so far on callbacks with that strategy. Its short and direct, and you don’t risk writing a bunch of stuff that might not be relevant to what they’re looking for. If its a career transition, or giant corporation, I’d probably write more formally, but still try to keep it short. I have no idea how those computer filters work.