I am not going to beat around the bush.  Cover letters are, for most recruiters, DOA.  If your resume doesn’t sell you, the cover letter won’t save you.

With the need for pinpoint screening, and with more and more candidates competing for the top jobs, internal recruiters and external search consultants simply do not have the time to read cover letters.  We move right to the heart of the matter – does the resume match with the needs of the client and does the candidate have the necessary experience and clearly documented relevant, quantifiable, accomplishments?  If the resume cannot pass that test, then reading a cover letter is not going to change the decision.

The only exception to this rule should be if the client or the recruiter request that resumes be accompanied by a cover letter.  Those requests, I assure you, will be few and far between.

The cover letter has essentially been replaced by a summary statement at the top of the resume, customized for each search, covering the number of years of leadership experience and highlighting the candidate’s experience and accomplishments that are relevant to the client’s needs.  Catch the recruiter’s attention as quickly as possible.  When you are competing for attention with hundreds of other resumes, that customized summary is critical.  For physician executives, in addition to not sending a cover letter, please do not send curriculum vitae.  Use a traditional executive resume unless you are applying to some academic institution that doesn’t care if the document clouds your employment history and quantifiable accomplishments.

For hundreds of candidates, both lay and physician executives, therein lies a major problem.  They send out a generic resume that focuses on their experience and most are oblivious to the needs of the client because they haven’t taken the time to do any research.  So, instead of wasting your time writing a cover letter, spend that time on the employer’s web site or other related research web sites (like the local newspaper, etc.) and then look at your contacts on LinkedIn to learn if you have any connections that can provide back channel insight or even make an introduction.

In an era of no-mistake hiring, the cover letter has gone the way of the fax machine as an essential tool for recruiters.

Friday – Change or Get Out of the Way