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Cover Letters? Ignore Your College Counselor

Last year, I was chatting with one of my Bay Area recruiter friends on the differences between what our jobs look like to the outside world versus what we actually do. Then I heard the bomb drop that I had always wondered, "Yeah... we don't actually read cover letters." I should have known better, as a designated interviewer for my then-current team, I was never given a cover letter from the recruiters.

Haunting memories came swirling back from my undergraduate days: sitting through long lectures on how to write a 10pt font, 0.5" margin cover letter, agonizing over how many flattering words I could cram onto one page while attempting to juggle 2 on-campus jobs, 3 volunteer groups, and a 40 page thesis.

A year later, I ran across a meetup titled "Starting a Career in Tech: Writing a Cover Letter" hosted by Galvanize - San Francisco.

"Bah! Don't they know recruiters don't read cover letters?" What could this meetup possibly be about? Are they just going to put up cat memes for an hour and a half?

I had to know.

I had to find out why educational institutions promote cover letters when they seem to magically disappear at the company's front door. Whatever I learned had the potential to set the record straight for both my former college career counselor and rising college seniors out there.

What I learned was jaw-dropping.

Everything I learned at the meetup regarding cover letter format was EXACTLY the opposite of my former guiding principles.

Galvanize acknowledged that only 5% of hiring managers in technology read cover letters, but the ones they chose to read were night and day compared to how college career counselors advised me to write a cover letter.

Cover Letter Comparison

Rightfully feeling like Rip Van Winkle after 3 years post-grad, I'm here to reiterate that the tech industry moves faster than the real world. Stay woke and follow these tips if you think your next job application will be read by one of the elusive 5%.

✅ Keep it short. Keep sentences short and 3 paragraphs maximum.

✅ Drop the formal salutation. This isn't a written letter anymore and it's best to actually put the cover letter in the email body as well.

✅ Talk about your interest in the company first and then bring up only relevant experience to the role.

Overall, the new age cover letter seems much less daunting. It's an opportunity to focus on what truly matters. So stop reading this and go apply to that dream job you've been eyeing!

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