Frequently, our clients question the necessity of preparing a cover letter or letter of introduction. Underpinning their question is the assumption that such a document creates more material for the employer to digest, and that more material equates to more work. As hiring managers are compelled to assess as expediently as possible the qualifications of potential employees in a large talent pool, cover letters enable them to quickly gain a sense of applicants’ skill sets and command of the language, including the ability to create a concise and appealing marketing document. These assessments can determine whether the applicants secure the interviews that will afford them opportunities to present their qualifications in greater detail.
A thoughtfully prepared cover letter, in fact, is often the “make or break” factor in securing the interview. For example, we once had a client who, having completed approximately one year of relevant course work, was eager to break into the field of film production, an industry historically difficult for a novice to enter. Compounding our client’s lack of experience was the worst possible timing: she sought our services the week after 9/11/2001. In the weeks following this unforeseeable tragedy, our nation was reeling emotionally and financially; stock markets plunged, and hiring came to a near-halt. Because our client was determined to forge ahead in her job search under these circumstances, we urged her to consider a cover letter in order to strengthen the resume. Upon her agreement, we prepared a letter that marketed her general, transferable skills, accentuated her strengths and demonstrated her genuine enthusiasm.
Approximately five weeks later, we received a call from the same client, weeping so that it was difficult at first to understand her. When she composed herself, we discovered that those were tears of joy. She had received and accepted an offer of employment from one of the directors of HBO programming, who confided that her cover letter had “sealed the deal” in calling her in for the interview, which yielded the job.
Although most candidates have no way of discerning the preferences of the hiring managers who receive their material, they are assured of one certainty, and that is that the inclusion of an introductory letter prepares them for any eventuality. It may even pave the way for the first step upon a new and exciting career path, as it did for our fledging production assistant.
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