By Candice Arnold
June 17, 2008
The first thing I learned when I started going over the responses I
received to my query about resumes is that there is a consensus of what is
acceptable and what isn't. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule,
but don't count on finding one of them during your job search. If you do,
great, but if you don't and you've violated one or more of the cardinal
rules of resume writing, you'll have only yourself to blame.
My first question concerned cover letters and their importance. Most of
the respondents said they wanted to see a cover letter. The top four
reasons they want candidates to include cover letters with their resumes:
to see how the candidate thinks and expresses himself/herself in writing
to determine if the candidate researched the position
to determine if the candidate researched the company
to discover the candidate's reason for applying to the position offered
Carol McLaughlin, branch manager for Spherion in Canton, Ohio, likes to
read the cover letter after looking at the resume, "to look for the
candidate's professional introduction and the reason why they are sending
"What I look for," says Linda Pophal, human resource management expert and
business journalist, "is an indication of the overall job/professional
experience of the candidate and how relevant it is to the position being
Tailoring the cover letter to the company and the position desired ranks
high with everyone. Ken Whiting, creator of the WAVES for Success program,
Ron Axelrod, vice-president of new business development and recruiting at
RTTS, Inc., Dr. Rachelle J. Canter, president of RJC Associates and author
of "Make the Right Career Move," Craig Kasco, recruiter for
1-800-GOT-JUNK?, J.P. Lincoln, founding partner of Crier Communications,
Steven Himmelrich, of Himmelrich Public Relations, Tina Hamilton, PHR.
president, and CEO of hireVision Group, Inc., and Susan Peppercorn,
founder and CEO of Inspiring Career, are unanimous on that point.
"There should be some mention of specific facts of the company they are
applying to and how they would connect with the company's product,
service, location, mission, or values," says Whiting.
Lee Salz, author, speaker, and business consultant, believes that, "while
having a boiler-plate cover letter makes sense, it should be customized to
match the job you are pursuing. As a manager reviewing that letter, I'm
looking to see if this person wants my job, not just a job."
My panel of experts also agree that recent college graduates looking for
entry-level employment with dynamic companies should write equally dynamic
cover letters. "Avoid cookie-cutter template resumes, cover letters, and
thank you notes," Axelrod advises.
Debbie Anglin, principal at Anglin Public Relations, Inc., likes cover
letters that showcase candidates' achievements or provide other
information that's inappropriate for the resume such as "I paid my own way
through college." And Karen Wright, operations director for KMSU 89.7 FM,
likes to see cover letters that indicate the candidate has "an
understanding of what the job is about."
True, there are some recruiters and hiring managers who don't require a
cover letter, but most do. So, in the words of Susan Peppercorn, "When in
doubt, it's always better to submit one."