As a college professor I get a lot of questions from students about applying for jobs and internships. Usually they are trying to land their first job after receiving a shiny new BSCS degree.
Last week a student came up after class and asked if I'd comment on their cover letter. It was a full page long, started with a joke, and I couldn't make it past the first paragraph. My advice was to tear it up and write a three-sentence note that:
- Acknowledged that the recruiter / manager is busy
- Mentioned one specific thing the student found interesting about the company
- Thanked the recruiter / manager for their time
I've been involved in the hiring process in the tech industry many times and have gone through literally thousands of resumes. I never read cover letters. My points to the student were:
- The recruiter just wants to get through the stack; they aren't reading your cover letter
- You don't know the recruiter, and so any attempt to 'connect' with them is wasted and can come across as disingenuous
- Spend the time you would have spent on the letter making your resume visually effective; you have only 3 or 4 seconds to grab the reader's attention with your most important point
I'm curious to hear what other folks think about cover letters, especially those who are actively involved in the hiring process. Do you read them? Do they affect your decisions?