3 Key Areas to Review in Cover Letters

July 23rd, 2014

A few months ago, we talked about key areas recruiters should review in candidate resumes for more efficient screening. But what about cover letters? Has the range of expert advice shared about cover letters over the years rendered them useless during the hiring process?

Cover letters can still be a valuable hiring tool.ID-100123324

Looking at cover letters as an art instead of a science (as many experts have proclaimed over the years) can help you appreciate this tool in a new way. Candidates who put extra effort into a memorable cover letter could very well be the creative problem-solvers your organization is looking for! Plus, spending a few extra seconds on the cover letter can help you determine whether reading the resume is even worth your time.

Be on the lookout for these three keys:

  1. Spelling and grammar. Don’t get ahead of us here, this might not be what you are expecting. Spelling is an area where there is no debate – a misspelled word on resumes is just a bad sign. But when it comes to grammar, you may want to relax a bit. Today’s business language isn’t nearly as formal as it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Take this blog, for example – professionals are speaking more, well, human! So rather than grade candidates on whether they can write a formal letter that sticks to all the formatting suggested by those experts, take a look at how the cover letter is written. Are they speaking to you or at you? Can you feel the candidate’s enthusiasm through the use of language?
  2. The “meat.” One reason many recruiters scan or skip cover letters is that candidates often simply use the cover letter as a summary of their resume. It makes sense to skip it, then – why read a summary of the resume when the resume is right in front you?! Exceptional candidates who can make an impact on your business will use the “meat” of their cover letter to add insight that illuminates the resume or ties together their work history to paint the big picture and offer true perspective on this candidate, his or her career and ultimately, his or her potential within your organization.
  3. The close. The cover letter close seems innocuous enough – “Here’s my contact information and I’d appreciate it if you would schedule an interview.” But it’s also pretty yawn inducing much of the time. Creative candidates with real potential will use the close as an opportunity to further demonstrate their enthusiasm and make you enthusiastic about talking to them! Don’t just scan the close, read it carefully – are you excited about the candidate? Or are you ready to toss the resume altogether?

Knowing what to look for in candidate cover letters can help you be more efficient while screening candidates, and could ultimately help you land your next office superstar. If you’re struggling to find and identify the top talent your organization needs, call Helpmates. We specialize in finding precisely the talent businesses need to reach and exceed their goals.

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