Cover Letters: What Hiring Managers Should Look For
hiring manager at desk reviews cover letters.

Cover letters may not be quite as common as they once were. However, reports of the cover letter’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. While many think they have gone the way of landlines and cable — “outdated” or “not necessary” — a well-written cover letter can be very impactful for any hiring manager who wants to add top talent to their organization.

Let’s discuss why you should consider asking for a cover letter along with a candidate’s resume, and what you should look for in them.

Why Should You Ask for a Cover Letter?

There’s a saying that goes: “Numbers don’t lie… but they don’t tell the whole truth, either.” In a similar way, a typical resume may read as a long list of responsibilities and achievements. It’s important for recruiters and hiring managers to have access to this information. However, it may not tell the whole story about a candidate’s suitability for the job.

This is where the cover letter comes into the picture. A cover letter is an opportunity to get a glimpse into the candidate’s personality and interest in the role. It also demonstrates that the candidate is willing to go above and beyond in order to land the position — especially if your job posting encourages a cover letter, but doesn’t require one.

Interestingly, one survey found that 53% of employers feel that a resume alone is not enough to get noticed. Additionally, 49% of HR managers say that including a cover letter is the second-best way for candidates to call attention to their resume (other than customizing the resume for the specific job in question).

Why Does The Doyle Group Ask for Cover Letters?

At The Doyle Group, our team requests that all candidates submit a cover letter with their resumes. Here are just a few of the many reasons why we believe this is a good approach:

  • It gives us (and our client) a chance to see the candidate’s writing & communication skills. A well-written cover letter — one that’s polite, concise, and free of typos — offers a window into the candidate’s professionalism and ability to communicate effectively. 
  • A cover letter is more personal than a list of skills on a resume. A candidate’s personality, values, and sensibilities are important factors in establishing cultural fit. The cultural fit of a candidate isn’t something that recruiters and hiring managers can determine from a resume or cover letter alone. However, examining the cover letter can help them start to “put the pieces together” in terms of what positive cultural contributions the candidate can offer.
  • Some things can’t be captured in a resume alone. For instance, what if there’s a significant gap in a candidate’s employment history? They may not be able to explain that gap in their resume. However, a cover letter can give them the opportunity to “fill in the blanks.” As a result, we get a more accurate representation of their background, motivations, and so forth.

What Should Hiring Managers Look for in Cover Letters?

The fact that a candidate submits a cover letter should not in itself be a compelling enough reason to give them special attention. As a hiring manager, there are certain things that you should look for in a cover letter that may indicate the candidate is the right choice for your company. For example:

1. Are they including information that’s relevant to the job they’re applying for?

A cover letter shouldn’t be a generalized summary of the candidate’s skills, qualifications, and motivations. Instead, it should be personalized to the specific job they’re applying for. 

If they have previous work experience that corresponds to the current role’s job duties, that should be mentioned in their cover letter. In fact, they may want to use the cover letter to take a “deeper dive” into certain projects or experiences that they’ll use in the job they’re applying for.

2. Is the candidate explaining why they’re qualified for the position?

This goes beyond technical skills and certifications (although these are important). A well-written cover letter should contain some insight into the candidate’s character and motivations. For instance, they should explain why they want to work for your company, and why they’d be a good fit for your corporate culture. 

3. Is the candidate “selling themselves” and their interest in the job?

A cover letter is a golden opportunity for a candidate to explain what they’ll bring to the table if they’re hired. You should look for indications that they sincerely want to join your team. Do they have a healthy measure of confidence in themselves and their ability to be an asset for your company? If they can clearly articulate their desire to help, and their belief in themselves, it’s more likely that they’ll be a productive member of your team if you decide to bring them on board.

Final Thoughts About Cover Letters

In summary, cover letters are still relevant in today’s job market. They offer a golden opportunity to learn more about a candidate’s personality, get additional details about their background, skills, and work history, and begin to determine whether they’d be a good fit for your organization.

Would you like more information about what specifically to look for in a cover letter? If so, reach out to our team of hiring experts at The Doyle Group today to begin the conversation. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Join our mailing list to get access to exclusive content