Once, cover letters and job resumes were inseparable like peanut butter and jelly, or Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. However, as traditional paper resumes have given way to online applications, the once-standard cover letter is not always seen as the Golden Rule. We received two perspectives from diverse industries, Digital FX, one of the state’s premier video production firms and Community Coffee Company, the largest family owned coffee brand in the US.
Cover Letters: The Small Business Perspective
Greg Milneck, principal at Digital FX explains that because he most often interviews animators, designers and others with a more artistic bent, he usually requests a resume and demo reel consisting of work or project samples.
“What I’m finding during an interview is when I ask for a resume, I get a blank stare,” explained Milneck. “Most college grads, or those I’d classify as Millennials, 90 percent of the time they show up for an interview and don’t bring a resume. So a cover letter is generally out of the question. I would highly suggest at least bringing a printed resume to an interview.”
Milneck further explained that in the world of digital arts where past work is key, your resume or a cover letter is not going to get you the job. However, a resume or cover letter in a poorly formatted Word document is indicative that a candidate is probably not a very detailed designer.
“If you submit a cover letter or resume, do a good job,” said Milneck. “This is the first opportunity to show your skills and first impressions are important. I’ll glance over the cover letter and if it’s succinct and has useful information—such as a brief summary of skills and desire for the position—it’s the first step to getting a foot in the door and your work reel reviewed.”
Cover Letters: The Corporate Perspective
Julie Domino works in talent acquisition with Community Coffee Company and she outlined the more corporate approach a large company such as hers takes during the hiring process. She explained that Community Coffee only accepts applications online and recruiters are the initial point of contact. This team screens applicants for minimum and preferred qualifications to move the top candidates into the interview process with a manager. However, online applicants are allowed to upload any other relevant documentation, which could include a cover letter.
“If you take the time to formulate a cover letter specifically speaking to the company and the position, it shows a higher level of interest regardless of if you think someone is going to read it,” said Domino. She added that many people submit resumes through LinkedIn and Indeed. These individuals will sometime reach out through what she terms “an e-note,” which could be considered a modern version of a cover letter. No matter what form a cover letter takes, Domino stresses that it should be brief and address the position, the company, and your interest in both. “This is your chance to share what sets you apart,” she said. “However, if you are applying for multiple jobs, proofread. I’ve had applicants submit cover letters mentioning other companies and that will most likely put you out of contention for the job.”
Cover Letters: The Rule of Thumb
Most experts agree a cover letter is highly recommended in the following cases:
– If the job offer states that it requires a cover letter.
– If the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter requests one.
– If you know the name of the person to whom you are directly applying.
– If someone has referred you for the position.
If there’s any doubt, include a cover letter that lets you make a compelling case for your candidacy. Sending one – particularly when it is not required – demonstrates that you are a motivated candidate and sets you apart from your competition. We think Matt and Ben would agree.
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