Today, a résumé scan or quick Google search can seemingly tell you everything you need to know about a job candidate: where they went to school, their work history, any major awards or achievements — the list goes on.
But no matter how in-depth your résumé — or its online equivalent — is, it’s not enough to tell your whole story to potential employers, writes Lauren Nelson, a communications specialist and VP at Aesthetic Cogency, in a LinkedIn post. “I don’t care if your résumé is dozens pages of awards and sheer greatness,” she says. “You’ve lost me.”
To Nelson, a well-written cover letter is more important than an impressive résumé because it reveals your work ethic and attention to detail. It provides glimpses into your personality that a list of achievements can’t.
For starters, Nelson makes it clear that she always requires a cover letter with any job application, yet she only receives them 40% of the time. And only about a fourth that do send cover letters actually tailor them to the job, making it easy for Nelson to weed out candidates. “If you can’t follow simple instructions in the application process, I have little to no faith in your ability to take direction on the job,” she explains.
Furthermore, what candidates choose to include on their cover letter tells Nelson if their background is a good match for the position. “If you cannot communicate why your experience and skills are relevant to the job, I’m not sure you understand what the position entails, or that your background brings all that much value to the table,” she says.
On the other hand, when Nelson can tell that a candidate took the time to craft a concise, detailed cover letter for the specific position they applied for, she is more than ready to schedule an interview.
“I would rather have a determined, passionate individual with a strong work ethic on my team than an Ivy League degree without tenacity every single time,” she says. What it comes down to is hard work and dedication — your résumé might boast impressive accomplishments, but it means nothing if you can’t prove that you’re genuinely passionate about the position.