There seems to be some confusion about cover letters. I have seen some advice on the big box job sites that is telling job seekers that the advice to include a cover letter may be a thing of the past. No doubt this will have many of you jumping for joy – I mean, who likes to write a cover letter anyway?
As always I feel compelled to issue my standard warning: Caution! The majority of advice you will find online is geared towards job seekers in the business community and are therefore may not be applicable to the Nurse Practitioner profession.
When you read general job advice columns it is important to slow down and read the fine print. First, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. What I found is that if you read carefully you will find that the advice refers only to email inquiries and applications. In other words, you must be emailing an actual person rather than submitting an online application directly into the system. As most of you already know, that doesn’t happen very often. Most “apply here” links take you into an automated applicant system and not to an actual HR representative.
The article makes the assertion that since you are emailing then your email can take the place of the cover letter. Fair enough. I do agree with that point. Of course, what is not clearly stated is that it is necessary that your email be formatted and written exactly like, well …a cover letter. So you can see that the reports of the demise of the cover letter are indeed premature and greatly exaggerated. It seems that the point the articles are making is that your cover letter information should be in your email rather than sent as an email attachment.
Here is the NP Career Coach’s advice on covers letters for Advanced Practice or NP jobs.
1. You still need one. Cover letters are not mere decoration for your resume. A cover letter tells the prospective employer you are capable of professional-grade written communication skills and that you possess at least a minimum understanding of the social graces. Nothing starts you off on the wrong foot with an employer quite like a sending an email that states only “I am interested in your position” or “attached is my resume”. No greeting, no closing, just bad manners.
2. Cover letters are a great way to fill in areas that are not always clear on a resume. For example, explaining gaps in employment and articulating your goals and interests. You can also let the employer know whether or not you are interested in any other positions. Oh, and if you know someone who works there you can (and should) name drop. J
3. Do it all. Attach it, put it in the body of your email too. Who cares if they receive two copies of the same thing? It’s just not that big of a deal. Some prefer to have an attachment and some prefer an email so do both and give them options. Attachments look better than emails when printed and that can be a plus. Putting your cover letter in the body of the email will increase the chances it is read upon opening. But as you all know an inbox can get cluttered and saved emails sometimes get deleted. Adding an attachment allows the recipient the ability to download and save your cover letter.
4. One of the most frustrating problems I encountered as a recruiter was receiving hundreds of attachments titled “cover letter” or “resume” which made it very difficult to find a particular candidates file. Problem solved. You can easily avoid this confusion by naming your attachments with your name rather than “cover letter”. See how easy that was? Remember, the idea is to stand out and make your application easier to find.
5. And finally, if you don’t already have one you should create a professional email account with your full name. Busy recruiters and hiring managers don’t have the time to scroll through an inbox or contact list trying to guess which email is from you. Using your full name as your email address just makes it that much easier to find you. It also makes you look more mature than using an email address such as “proudmommy” or “catluvver”.