Recruiting questions answered: To cover letter or not cover letter, by Amanda Matthews

Q: Dear Recruiter, Can you please tell me your opinion on including a cover letter?  Also, are there any other items that I should not be included in my resume?


Great question, this is one that is often asked of me.  Even within my own family, I have people who disagree with me on this topic.  I have been in the recruiting industry for 12 years and have hired in all disciplines from Finance to Engineering, so I hope my opinion will be helpful to you.   


The day in a life of a recruiter includes, hiring manager meetings, phone interviews, in person interviews, offer negotiations, community involvement, discussions about HR policy, blogging….just to name a few.  There is also time set aside every day for resume reviews and prospecting new candidates.  That time does not include reviewing cover letters.  Studies show that on average a resume will get reviewed for 20 seconds.  That’s it!  You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your skills.  When I tackle a stack of resumes, I ask myself each time, “Does this candidate meet the minimum requirements of the job?”  This answer should be found on your resume and an easy to read format, not in an essay attached to your resume.  And let’s face it, not all of us are born writers.  The idea of writing a cover letter can certainly be a daunting task.  Save yourself the trouble.  Don’t write it.


Other items not to include on you resume include pictures, marital status, number of children, and dates of birth.  I also recommend that you include only professional certifications, such as a CPA, CCNA, CCIE.  Aptitude tests are not recommended on your resume, and often are distracting. 


I hope this advice will help you on your quest for your next dream job.  On behalf of Microsoft Recruiting, I wish you the best of luck.