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Write That Cover Letter!

lazy job

A recruiter told me he recently got an email from a candidate for a specific job that read: Do I need a cover letter?

Hmmm…that was his cover letter.

Though it wasn’t a deal-breaker, the recruiter said the email made a potentially promising candidate a lot less interesting.

There’s some debate about whether cover letters are still necessary. Frankly the discussion makes no sense to me.

In a competitive job market, why would someone not take every opportunity to make a good impression?

It isn’t just the cover letter that job seekers are neglecting. Mickey Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, recently said he was tired of “manufactured resumes.” Writing in the latest issue of Inc., Jason Fried, co-founder of 37Signals, said the single most important qualification for a job at his company was making the effort to get it. And he’s not seeing much of it. The company recently ran an ad for a designer that asked applicants for work samples and anything else, “that will make you stand out.” Only about 10% of applicants even tried.

The rest sent what has become standard: one-size-fits-all resumes and cover letters, and links to LinkedIn profiles. “Compare that with the candidate who sent a link to a custom-designed website that’s all about getting this particular job,” Fried wrote.

Sure, it is easy to get frustrated when looking for a job. You may have answered dozens, even hundreds of ads. You’ve asked everyone in your network for leads. Particularly if you’ve been unemployed for a while, it can start to feel that nothing you do will make a difference.

Here’s a another way to look at it. A lot of job seekers get lazy. So instead of joining them, beat them.

So write that cover letter.

Tell hiring managers about your enthusiasm, drive and ambition. Take the time to figure out what they really need from an employee—what problems they need solved—and let them know your ideas. Use specific examples from your previous jobs that show them how you will perform–how you think, what you can accomplish, what results you get, what you can create.

The real mystery isn’t that it takes work to get work, but that some people have gotten the idea that it doesn’t.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.