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The Importance of Cover Letters

The Importance of Cover Letters in a Tough Market — Regardless of What Industry You are Targeting

Recently, a few SI alumni, who are also active recruiting employers for SI interns and MSI grads, recently contacted the SI Career Development Office with some feedback on the quality of cover letters they were getting from SI students. We were given permission to share this information with you so that you are putting your best effort forward in your job search. While this feedback is critical—please take it as constructive advice to learn from as it is our intention to prepare you for job search success.

MYTH: A tailored cover letter is only necessary for library or archives jobs, and not that important for corporate positions—say in the area of HCI or more technical-related positions.

FACT: In a tough market, any and all marketing materials (resume, cover letter and portfolio) are being evaluated closely by employers. Now more than ever, BECAUSE competition is fierce, in some instances, more importance is being placed on the cover letter to determine qualifications, motivation, and interest. This is one of your few chances to stand out!

Below are a few testimonials from SI alumni/employers on the quality of cover letters they have evaluated recently…

”I recently finished going through a couple of stacks of resumes and cover letters for a professional position that I am hiring for and I relied HEAVILY on the quality of the cover letter to help distinguish the star candidates. I probably had about 10 recent grads who had adequate and similar skills/experience, but they didn’t take the time to write a quality cover letter. Without the added context a good cover letter can provide, I found that they were easy to cut from the running in favor of the applicants who expressed enthusiasm and strong interest in the organization AND the position in their letters. “

“A cover letter that is sprinkled with language pulled directly from the job description stands out to me, and makes me want to read on and pay close attention to the resume. It’s easy to see that the candidate ACTUALLY took the time to read and understand the job description, and made it easy on me by providing examples that bridged what we were looking for to what they had done. Those are the cover letters that stand out—and almost certainly lead to an interview.”

“Make sure to stress to students the importance of a well-written cover letter (free of spelling and grammatical errors) that tells a story and provides examples of their skills, accomplishments, and qualifications DIRECTLY TIED to what is being sought on the job posting. Employers EXPECT SI students to have excellent graduate-level writing skills. A poorly written cover letter is a very bad first impression. “

Set Yourself Up For Success

For those that are targeting the corporate world, it’s tricky to know when a cover letter is essential, but it’s better to err on the side of overly prepared, than not prepared enough. A good cover letter can only help. IT WILL NOT HURT your chances of getting the job. While some HR recruiters at a job fair might indicate that cover letters are separated from resumes and may not even be looked at, keep in mind that is usually the case in that type of setting. For that type of event, where hundreds of students are passing out resumes to HR recruiters, that is the best way for them to manage their pool. Understanding the goal/intention of a networking event such as a job fair is different than applying directly to a job from a posting (where a tailored cover letter should accompany every resume you send out—whether the job posting asks for it or not).

Writing a thoughtful and strategic cover letter is not easy. It’s a developed skill. So if this is your first cover letter writing experience, it will take time to develop a good one. TAKE THE TIME to write one that is not generic, and that is directly tied to the job posting. Express your enthusiasm and interest for the job AND the organization in a genuine and authentic way. The more cover letters you write, the easier it gets. By taking this approach, you are only increasing your chances of being called for an interview, and for ultimate job search success!

For examples of MSI cover letters, go to SI Career Development Resume and Cover Letter Guide.

For more on the topic of whether to include a cover letter in your next job application, find out what other career experts are saying…

When is a Cover Letter Necessary When it Comes to Applying For Job Opportunities?

Do You Need a Cover Letter?

Make Your Cover Letter Count in a Competitive Market

Cover Letter Resources for Job Seekers

If you need help writing a good cover letter, we can help! Set up an appointment at si.careers@umich.edu.

Posted by kkowatch at June 22, 2010 09:15 AM


This blog has helped me land every job I've gotten since I started at SI. Great update today!

Posted by: dmzande at June 30, 2010 02:44 PM

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