Many job postings, that can be found on LinkedIn today, offer the candidate the choice of applying for positions using their LinkedIn Profile—rather than a résumé. The LinkedIn profile includes their background, skills, recommendations, work history, endorsements, education and so forth. It all sounds good…so far.
What about the cover letter?After talking to over 50 hiring professionals (recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers), I have been convinced that they do not read stand-alone cover letters. That’s why we started making the cover letter the first page of the résumé document.
Several hiring professionals were proud to tell me they had not read a cover letter in over 10 years. They let the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) check it out. Through the ATS, cover letters go through four or five different filters. There is more to it than keywords. With all that checking, most hiring professionals do not read cover letters.
Even if the cover letter is never read by a hiring professional, the ATS may find value and bring additional points to the applicant’s status for the position. A recent demo of the new and updated ATSs coming out clearly ranked candidates on a scale of A, B, C, and D. All other materials were discarded …yes, the proverbial black hole.)
It becomes apparent that the cover letter may have a positive effect in the filtering systems. If applicants use their LinkedIn Profile and a cover letter is not included, then it seems to me that this is a clear disadvantage.
What about résumé customization?Certainly, by now, every experienced jobseeker should understand the value of a customized cover letter and résumé.
Why customize? Simple. Most people have significant background experience. Their experiences may vary, and inevitably, our LinkedIn profiles maintain this wide net. This allows applicants (employed or not!), to cast a wide net and cover those skills and experiences that are needed for a wide variety of positions.
While this is fine for LinkedIn, I believe it is counterproductive for a résumé.
Why? When hiring professionals look at résumés, they have specific job requirements in mind. The résumé that casts a wide net, clutters up the page with irrelevant information —e.g. information that is inconsequential to the specific position. It conceals the information that the reader is seeking because it is embedded with so much information that is irrelevant to the specific position.
Finally, even if the reader finds the information he or she is looking for, its importance has now been minimized since it has a place amongst all that “other” stuff.
Actually, those requirements, from the job posting, are the very points that should be made “front and center” for the reader. It would be impossible to have a LinkedIn profile that put the right information “front and center” for a specific job posting.
Top tips when applying for a position:When applying for a position, here is my guide, in order, on how to apply.
- Best case scenario: Applying directly to a hiring professional. Sometimes recruiters identify themselves on the job posting. Other times a referral may offer the name of a person to send materials to directly.
NOTE: Even if you send your materials directly to a person, you may be asked to apply through the ATS to cover regulatory requirements and reporting.
- If you apply online, upload your materials (cover letter and résumé) as close to the company as possible. Best case scenario is to apply through the company website whenever possible.
- Applying through LinkedIn by uploading a customized cover letter and résumé, is the next best option.
- The option to “fast-apply” by selecting the option to use your LinkedIn Profile comes next.
- Finally, the last option is to place a résumé on a public job board and hope someone calls.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.