The truth is that I learn more about job candidates from reading their cover letters than I do from the resumes. The cover letter lets me know whether to even bother with the resume. Resumes have been so rigorously formatted that they too often mask the interesting stuff.
When I am looking at resumes I am looking because I have a need, or a problem to solve. Job applicants too don’t often understand that. They think they are the one with the problem to solve. They don’t realize that what you want to fix is your own problem, not theirs.
I encourage applicants to tell me what they can do for me, not what I can do for them. I usually don’t have the time or the inclination to read between the lines. When I am looking at resumes I am rarely looking at just one. There is usually a stack of them, often unedited or sometimes culled down by a trusted aide. But there are many of them. They all look kind of the same. Their job is to grab my attention. They have to have me by the throat to get me to a second page. The effort has to come from the page not from me.
Be brutal in your first cull. If you don’t see what you want at first glance – it’s probably not there. Put it aside – never look at it again. Stuff that takes a third page should have been saved for the interview. How many people have you hired from a resume without an interview? None, right? 0
So let’s sum up: the cover letter’s job is to get me to read the resume and the resume’s job is to get an interview. How hard is that? Some day I will publish a book of real cover letters. It will be a best-seller. In the humor category.