Add a Cover Letter? Answers from the 'Yes' File

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Five Tips for a Well-done Tech Resume

A tech pro's resume has to match the speed of this fast-changing industry.

This all started with Peter Shankman's rant about trying to hire an assistant editor for HARO, the site that matches reporters with good sources. Of 449 resumes that came to the right address, 184 of them came with no cover letter, no email introduction, not even a subject line for the position being sought.


He wrote:

We didn't specifically ask for a cover letter, but come on-Nothing?

I had encountered a whole school of thought dismissing cover letters as passe, especially in an age of online applications. So I sent out a query on HARO asking those who actually hire in IT or who recruit for IT to briefly weigh in on this matter. I received 22 responses by my deadline, 13 for and nine against. (HARO works a little too well, so you have to set a really tight timeline for replies or else you'll be swamped.) So obviously this isn't a scientific study, but it can provide some insight.


I've written before that the resume is not about you. Each resume should be written specifically addressing how your skills can help solve the employer's problems. Alesia Benedict, president and CEO of GetInterviews.com, stresses that the resume's sole purpose is to pique the hiring manager's interest enough to schedule an interview, so it doesn't have to be the whole history of your life.


So here are some responses from the "yes" folder:


Caroline Green, director of business development for IvanExpert, which provides Mac support in New York City, gave three reasons she expects a cover letter:

  1. It gives me a good sense of whether the IT professional can communicate well with others (employees and clients). Especially in IT, one often finds people who are expert in tech-speak but can't explain anything to non-techies, which is often part of the job (it certainly is for us).
  2. Often the resume is fairly generic and covers a lot of info, so the cover letter allows the applicant to highlight his/her expertise in the specific areas we have requested.
  3. It makes it easy for me to figure out whether the applicant is simply spraying out resumes to as many employers as possible, or whether he/she actually thought about whether he/she is a good match for what we need.

Jenson Crawford, director of engineering, at Fetch Technologies wrote:

Without a cover letter, the candidate is counting on me to infer-in just a few seconds-how the experience on the resume is related to the company's needs. The cover letter is invaluable in helping me understand how the candidate's experience is a match.

Added Jay Reloj, senior recruiting partner at Freeborders:

IT resumes can get very technical in nature when a candidate is explaining the project, his/her role and responsibilities. Cover letters give a concise view of the candidate's experience and provide background that can give an introduction to the resume.

Says John Brewer of MedTech USA:

What I do is create a series of "hurdles" for an applicant to follow. In general: cover letter (pdf), 1 page resume (pdf), 3 letters of recommendation faxed to a specific number, etc. As I expect my IT folks to be able to follow specific directions, if they can't follow these directions, they get weeded out.

And added Marco Zappacosta, CEO and co-founder of local marketplace ThumbTack:

It's not the content that we care about, but the effort. If you take the time to write something thoughtful, it tells us that you're genuinely interested in the position and not just blasting your resume out indiscriminately.

One thought I saw several times was that the cover letter should not merely be a regurgitation of the resume, but add value to the resume by focusing on key points, adding new insight.


In an upcoming post, I'll present thoughts from the "nay" file.