Cover Letters Build the Case for 50-Plus Workers
John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
“The cover letter is dead.” You may have heard this pronouncement from friends or colleagues, who cite the trend toward electronic submission of resumes and the ever-shrinking attention span of application readers as reasons.
But according to those who think deeply about the particular challenges facing job seekers age 50 and above, the statement can be reversed: “Long live the cover letter!”
The cover letter is an age-neutral communication that can build a bridge from your impressive career achievements to the prospective employer’s specific needs and help punch your ticket to a job interview.
That’s why experts recommend using cover letters (or cover messages, for electronic submissions) to introduce professional connections, project youthful energy, demonstrate writing prowess, and — to set the stage for an upbeat interview — adroitly dispense with challenges such as resume gaps and requests for salary history.
Customization Is King
Because older workers have so much to gain through the cover letter, customizing the message to the opportunity is particularly important. “People send me the same cover letter that they sent to the last 10 positions they applied for,” says Sarah Hightower Hill, CEO of Chandler Hill Partners, a career search strategies firm. “That’s just crazy.”
If possible, start the letter with a reference to a professional colleague who connects you to the prospective employer. “Lead with the person who refers you,” says Carleen MacKay, a practice leader at staffing firm Spherion Corp. If you’ve chosen the connection wisely, you’ll vastly increase the chances of getting your resume read.
Now use the cover letter — a faceless, ageless message — to communicate your core qualifications for the job opening. Resist the temptation to cite years of experience or encyclopedic knowledge of your industry’s history. Instead, concentrate on recent, specific accomplishments that make you a match for the job.