Time and time again, I see so many candidates sabotage their chances of getting a job interview or even a job offer by failing to understand that the entire hiring process is one that best responds to the staged release of information over time. The process leading up to a job interview or a job offer is not an opportunity for a data dump on the hiring manager. The problem seems to be one that is more common with non-native English speakers (NNES as they are called) or people who seek employment in the U.S. from overseas. They often treat the hiring process as a single event, wanting to accompany cover letter and résumé with other documentation that explains their particular circumstances, whether it be H1B visa issues, relocation challenges, or physical disabilities. That’s a sure way to guarantee being dropped from further consideration.
The initial strategy is to first be a likable person. Human nature dictates that we all want to work with people we like (except maybe the people on the TV show Hardcore Pawn), so that obstacle must first be cleared before you can be considered for your expertise (your skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments–not necessarily in that order). How that expertise addresses the needs of the hiring manager is equally as important. It is much easier for a hiring manager or Human Resources professional to address any mitigating circumstances surrounding your being offered a position after your expertise has been deemed valuable and needed by the organization.
Your cover letter should speak to how your expertise and accomplishments (hiring managers want problem solvers, game changers, and solutions providers–not just another employee with “duties and responsibilities”) address what the hiring manager needs and the position requires–all without summarizing the same information that’s on your résumé. You have 5 to 7 seconds to grab that hiring manager’s attention, so be sure your first sentence doesn’t begin with: “I have enclosed my résumé for consideration for the such-and-such position” because that sort of drivel means you likely won’t get called for an interview. The cover letter is not the place (or the time) to mention anything other than your being the hiring manager’s candidate of choice based on what you’ve done, not what you were “responsible for.”
The purpose of the cover letter is to get the hiring manager’s interest so he or she will look at your résumé; the purpose of your résumé is to generate sufficient interest so that you are called in for an interview. The purpose of the interview is to assess: (1) you (likability factor), (2) your skillset, and (3) your accomplishments so that the hiring manager can predict (with very limited data) the probability of your on-the-job success. Don’t eliminate yourself from further consideration by providing ancillary information that has no immediate bearing on these three key factors.