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There is much conversation in the career space and among job seekers about the topic of cover letters: Are they necessary, and if so, can they really influence a recruiter’s decision about your candidacy?

The outcry against them has gained momentum over the past few years and job seekers are weary of this job search ritual that even many recruiters don’t seem to want.

I have spoken with hundreds of recruiters and read thousands of posts and articles on the subject, and it continues to come down to this: Poorly written cover letters are a waste of everyone’s time and even the best ones may not get read. So now what?

Do it anyway. Although your cover may not get read, it also may get read, so why not use this tool to your advantage? Advantage being the operative word—to your advantage and to the recruiters. Make it worthy of both your time.

Top five ways to create a high-impact cover letter to attract recruiter attention

Be brief. Recruiters are inundated with resumes and job applications and are searching for quality candidates that can communicate their value offering powerfully yet succinctly. When you open your mail at home, do you read the text-heavy, smells like a form letter documents first? Of course not, so why would a recruiter? Write out what you have to say and then edit it down to 200-250 words.

Use bullet points. Introduce yourself and the position you are applying for and use bullet points to outline your value statements. This should include recent accomplishments relative to the job and align with what the posting is calling for. Limit your list to the top 3-4 points you want to make and place them in order of what you anticipate the reader’s priorities to be.

Grab their attention. Start out strong with a quote, statistic, or original insight about the company that intrigues the reader and makes them want to learn more about you. This is not time for click baiting your audience, but to spark their interest. Once you grab their attention it is your responsibility to deliver quality follow up, so they are not sorry they continued reading.

Customize your approach. Many of us whose employment histories span decades can get stuck living in the past embracing the awkward, yet familiar format of the cover letters we grew up with. Move beyond the familiar and move into the space of applying your creative voice to communicate what the reader wants to know. Research the company and research the recruiter or hiring manager and use that information to demonstrate your knowledge of their problems and how you are the solution they are looking for.

Include a call to action. In a short and sweet cover letter, there is no time for being coy about what you want. Ask for an interview, ask for a phone call, and make it easy for the reader. Set both of you up for success by handing them the keys to contact you – repeat your phone number and email address. If you say you will contact them, keep your word and do it.

While cover letters can seem like an unnecessary burden to add to a job search, they can provide an opportunity to impact and influence a decision-maker about your candidacy. This becomes even more true as less people are taking the time to write them. A high-impact cover letter can be an important tool in your approach to getting noticed and getting the call.

Want more great tips? for recent career-related information I’ve shared on numerous podcasts, television outlets, and radio shows.

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