The Truth About Reading Cover Letters

While the news that job promotions could be random certainly struck a nerve in some circles, it raises some interesting and important questions about the way organizations hire and manage their employees.

When a random algorithm has the potential to seriously assist management in picking promotions, how could it change the hiring process for job seekers?

The truth, not surprisingly, is that psychology job applications are treated in a mathematical manner that would work quite effectively in a digital algorithm. Experienced recruiter Carl Bradford explained that the average resume and cover letter is scanned for key points rather than actually read, with recruiters eliminating unsuitable applicants in a binary fashion depending on their credentials and experience.

With this twenty-second-scan figure in your mind, consider the following when writing your next cover letter.

The realities of resumes, cover letters, and job applications may not be friendly or all that comforting, but understanding the way recruiters read your application can give you a major advantage when competing for a position against hundreds of other candidates.

Employers just don’t care about you:

You don’t matter. What matters is your suitability to the jobs that are on offer, particularly when your application is processed by a third-party recruitment firm or busy hiring manager.

As satisfying as it is to write your cover letter in an unconventional fashion around your skills, interest in a position, or functional experience, doing so will make you incompatible with the rigid standards used in hiring.


Objectives don’t matter, but history does:

Hiring managers rarely consider your objective, so why include it? Your resume and cover letter need to showcase your ability to fit into positions that an organization is interested in filling, not your ideal job conditions or goals in the workplace.

The most valuable real estate on any letter is found within the top third of the page. Waste it on unread objectives and you’ll be passed over.

You’re one of hundreds in the pile. Be clear:

There’s a reason most functional resumes are ignored: they make key information inaccessible. Scan your cover letter for simplicity and clarity before submitting it to a potential employer.

Doing so can drastically increase the amount of key information that recruiters can access as they skim over your cover letter. Include key achievements, industry experience, and information about your credentials.


Cover letters are assessed against an existing position:

Most successful resumes are written in accordance with an established format. There’s little room for creativity and even less for personalization, and for good reason as their goal is to convey any information as succinctly and simply as possible.

A cover letter, however, isn’t held to such tight guidelines, and many applicants treat it as an opportunity to be a little creative with their goals.

Remember that, despite the flexibility of a cover letter, its goal is to help you sell yourself as a candidate for an existing, established position.

Rather than explaining your value in vague and general terms, it’s important that you tailor your cover letter to showcase your suitability for an established role and avoid falling into the trap of merely discussing your skills and experience.