You start to differentiate yourself, to focus on what you can do for them, and to sell that to the company.
A quick Internet search turns up many comments from job seekers who are glad to see it go and career experts who say, "Toss it." But some people still advise, "Better write a good one; they're important." I fall into the latter camp—but I do recognize that the role of the cover letter has changed.
No longer do you introduce your resume or industry CV with a letter on the finest linen stationary; the letter will be printed out, if at all, on whatever paper the human resources (HR) department happens to have in the printer.
I did an impromptu survey of my HR friends; just 40% told me they "regularly" read the cover letter.
The other 60%, though, said that they read cover letters on occasion, and that in certain situations a cover letter could be very useful.
Unfortunately, not everyone prints out the email when they circulate an enclosure.
Take me: If I want to hand my client a binder of our candidates for a search, I'll routinely print cover letters and CVs, but I never print an e-mail.
But before we get to that, I'll talk about how cover letters can be an advantage to employers—even if, as you may have discovered, they don't ask for them very often.
Just because you've written a great cover letter doesn't mean that everyone is going to read it.
I wrote about the importance of succinct writing in part one of this series; the cover letter should carry that forward.
You will, in fact, utilize one of those "Challenge-Approach-Results" (C-A-R) paragraphs from part one later in this column.