​When was the last time you submitted a cover letter with a resume? If you can’t remember, you aren’t alone. Cover letters are quickly becoming a thing of the past with the advent of speed, technology and the sheer volume of resumes submitted for any particular job post, but it wasn’t always this way. Years ago, the cover letter was a tool that recruiters or hiring managers used to get the bigger picture about you and what you had to offer an organization.  

Today, however, the average recruiter spends 5-7 seconds reviewing any single resume. In that amount of time, the last thing they are going to do is read a cover letter. In addition, most companies today use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that allow talent to upload their resume which in turn, strips the information, only leaving the most important data for quicker perusing.

Regardless of all of this, the end of the cover letter also signals the end of personalizing your pitch and highlighting information that doesn’t shine on a bulleted job history. To stand out now, applicants need to get creative and change the traditional resume format to serve their needs. Here is what we suggest:

  1. Add a summary At the top of your resume, provide two to three sentences that highlight what makes you different compared to other applicants. This is a great place to share your career-focus or maybe the high-level of competency you offer. Note: this is different than the old-school “objective” that once adorned resumes. The summary should focus on your skills and not your career intentions.
  2. Highlight your accomplishments Under each employment heading, include bulleted points listing critical elements that hiring managers are seeking. For example, answer the questions: “What were your major accomplishments?” “What results were achieved? By offering concrete examples, your resume will stand out compared to your competition.
  3. Include your Social Media Handles (Where Applicable) On your resume, always be sure to include your customized URL for LinkedIn in particular. If you are active on Twitter and FB (in a professional way) include these too. Think of your LinkedIn profile as the modern cover letter. Here you can provide detailed information about the value you bring to a company. Your social profiles are a direct reflection of you and whether you are a culture fit for the company you are potentially interviewing with. As a result, use discretion and judgement in whatever you choose to share.

There is one caveat to the death of the cover letter. Sometimes it is used as a test to see how interested and committed you are to the position. So if a company asks for a cover letter, be sure to include one. It may not even be reviewed but those resumes received without a cover letter may be a weeding factor and could automatically be dismissed.
Beyond everything else, focus on the elements of the application process – a strong resume, a professional online presence, and skillful networking – elements that will separate you from the crowd each and every time.

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