This week, LiveCareer reached out to several of the recruiters in our professional network to chat with them about cover letters. We asked a few questions and allowed our recruiter friends to answer any or all of them in any way they chose. Here are some of the responses we received from recruiters across a range of industries, including marketing, hospitality, healthcare, IT, and sales.
Question #1: Do You Read Them?
“First of all, do you read cover letters? Do you request them from candidates before you contact these candidates and decide to present them to your employer clients?”
“I don’t usually ask for cover letters, but when candidates send them to me, I appreciate the extra information and insights they provide. I would say this: cover letters aren’t an official part of my review process, but the candidates who submit them are more likely to gain my attention.”
“Yes, I review cover letters. If a candidate doesn’t send me a letter along with her resume, I don’t immediately disqualify her. But a letter really helps. Cover letters give life and personality to a resume and they help me understand the person behind all the dry facts and accomplishments that resumes usually entail.”
Question #2: What Stands Out?
“What do you look for in a cover letter? What kinds of details impress you?”
“I look for clear, precise language and the ability to send an effective written message. Candidates who write well usually think well—or at least, that’s what my employer clients believe. And if they place more trust in a candidate who writes well, then so do I.”
“I look for an alignment with the open position I’m trying to staff. And I look for substance behind all the puffed up, meaningless boasting (like: ‘I’m a hardworking, natural winner with an aggressive drive to succeed’). I also try to find matches between the skills my employers are looking for and the skills the candidate has clearly exercised on the job.”
“Keywords, keywords, keywords. I may not be an IT pro, but I’m an expert IT recruiter, and that means I recognize the phrases and words that are associated with successful hires. If my clients need a candidate with proficiency in a certain language or on a certain system, that’s what I look for.”
“I skim for three key details: 1) What will the candidate expect to be paid, and can my clients afford this rate? 2) Where does the candidate live—is it within commuting distance? And 3) Will the candidate accept the job if she receives an offer? I won’t be successful if I present too many overqualified candidates who reject offers or hold a position for just a few weeks before leaving.”
Question #3: Any No-Nos?
“Do you have any cover letter turn-offs or pet peeves? What are they?”
“I really dislike clichés. If you’re going to get my attention, you have to say something about yourself that’s original and specific. Anyone can just copy a cover letter from a friend. I need a meaningful and informative letter that will help me make an important staffing decision.”
“I don’t like candidates who treat me like a middleman. Work just as hard to impress your recruiter as you work to impress a hiring manger. Do this with your resume, your cover letter, AND your interview.”
Keep Your Cover Letter Strong
As you draft your cover letter and present it to recruiters in your industry, bring your best effort and showcase your most important qualifications. Use LiveCareer’s resources and Cover Letter Builder to make your case.