Getting your first job interview is the hardest part – if not, definitely more difficult than you think it is. Your enemy? Piles of CVs that each HR has to go through, before shortlisting you. Reason? You are unaware about the real purpose of cover letter.
If you are starting your tech career as a Programmer, there is 90% chance you have been overhyped about the importance of your CV. Your training institute’s placement cell or your career coach might have drafted you a great CV, and a boilerplate cover letter that no one bothers to read.
What no one tells you is:
- Before opening up your CV, any HR reads your cover letter first – remember, your job application email serves as your cover letter, and your CV is in attachment.
- If it’s boilerplate (they can almost sniff it in half a second), they won’t bother to read up your CV
- If your cover letter subject line is boilerplate, they may even delete your job application
What purpose does a cover letter serve that a CV cannot?
- A cover letter is your first attempt to enter employer’s database.
- A CV is your last chance to nail that job interview / technical test.
- A cover letter is usually addressed to HR / Recruiter. Your application may not get past them if cover letter sucks.
- A CV, on the other hand, gets reviewed by everyone, including HR / Recruiter, Technical Manager, your potential teammates, and even your office boss.
- A cover letter needs customization for each job application.
- A CV has to be reader-agnostic. If you have to alter your CV for every job position, you aren’t quite clear about your career choices. Modification in CV is only required when there is significant skill-upgrade.
How is that possible? After all, reading an email is lot easier than saving a paper application. Precisely, it’s easier to discard it as well.
Is the sole purpose of a cover letter securing your first job interview?
Of course. The stakes are indeed high when you are applying for your first job. You have competition.
Below is a snapshot of my HR friend’s mailbox who recruits in an IT firm – it shows job applications for junior level PHP Programmer position.
This screenshot barely covers emails received within an hour. It could be 100+ each day – depending upon the demand and supply of PHP Programmers.
If you were the HR, with all your sincerity and efficiency, how many emails would you be able to open, read up their content, open the CVs and review them each?
Most likely, you will call the false positives (with great cover letters), and leave out competent ones, simply because their subject lines and cover letters sucked.
Back to being a newbie Programmer: Your end-goal is obvious: win the war (landing your first job). But you need to win many battles in order to win that war:
- Getting your cover letter email opened and read
- Getting your CV opened from attachments
- Getting the interview call
- Clearing the interview(s)
- Landing your first dream job
Cover letter helps you past 3 steps. We have also discussed how to write a great cover letter for your first software job – just go through it and land your first job interview within weeks!
A well-crafted cover letter helps you win half the battle in getting rid of the competition. If you are lucky, it could even make up for a poorly built CV and land you your first dream job interview.