Networking Trumps the Cover Letter | Jobs In NJ

Networking Trumps the Cover Letter

By: Margaret Hansen

Your communication skills will help you to write a knock-out cover letter, make a great in-person impression at an event and help you to constantly improve your personal brand via your social media networks.

But, which is most important to gain that ultimate edge and win a job interview:

  • The cover letter that sells you to a prospective employer in writing?
  • Or your networks of people with whom you've built relationships?

We asked this question in a recent poll and 87 percent chose networking.

Networking Is Key

Although cover letters remain a vital piece of a job application, in general, most agree that networking provides more insurance for your job search.

Those who are adept at meeting, getting to know and working with many professionals in their field would naturally select networking, but even introverts who prefer persuasive writing - or recruiters who cherish a well-written cover letter - would have to agree that a solid network yields more career opportunity for the candidate and more quality referrals for the hiring manager.

Building Relationships

"Even if you are successful, networking with diverse people can be even more important as your career progresses," according to Michael Dulworth, author of the book The Connect Effect: Building Strong Personal, Professional and Virtual Networks, who notes that the higher your career advances the greater the risk of isolation. "You're networking every day... you need to form your network to 'give, give, give' (to others) and someday when you need that network, that network will be there for you."

Dulworth mentions that vibrant networks are more than just a collection of business cards or email addresses, but instead they are built on real relationships.

The Total Package

One of our online contributors noted that great networking is the beginning of the entire communication package that you present to future employers: networking, cover letter, resume and interview.

"The successful strategy includes thorough homework, learning from people who know, and getting out there to engage the market," says Jim Milliken, PMP, from a LinkedIn discussion group. "Good networking gets prospective employers to read your good cover letter, which convinces them to read your excellent resume, which makes them eager to invite you to an interview (at which you shine)."

Read Comments Around This Poll

LinkedIn (Portland Regional Chamber)

No question - it would be GOOD networking skills.

- Carl Loomis

Networking for sure. It amazes me how often people either don't write any cover letter or write poor ones. Good cover letters are very important, but 'who you know' is still one the best tools. Just attaching a resume with no greeting in your email is the worst thing you can do, and I see it way too often!

- Keith E. Goodwin

Without a doubt, good networking!

- Karen Vachon

We're talking, of course, about good networking and good cover letters. Both result from studying, practicing and perfecting good communication skills. That goes for the resume and the interview as well.

If your networking convinces an ever-wider circle of people that you're a jerk, even if you'd be a great employee, it's worse than useless. If your cover letter is poorly thought-out and sloppily written, ditto. Same for the other elements of your get-hired campaign. The successful strategy includes thorough homework, learning from people who know, and getting out there to engage the market. Good networking gets prospective employers to read your good cover letter, which convinces them to read your excellent resume, which makes them eager to invite you to an interview (at which you shine). Communication. I know I'm messing up the survey, but I vote for all of the above.

- Jim Milliken, PMP

Good networking. I've taken interviews and met people with no cover letter, only because of their network and the intro path. The cover letter these days is not likely an intro, but a follow up. You can still ruin your good networking if you can't write a good follow up.

- Jonathan Hutter

USA Northeast - NY MA NJ PA ME VT RI CT Group

Having desired hard skills (90% match) and good soft skills conveyed effectively in your resume and in all on-line profiles (social networks as well as job boards) can be powerful. Being prepared at all times is key; including having concise summary of who you are and what you've done (as relevant to prospective employer) that you can share quickly. I think the networking profile opens the door and then you need to sell your skills and positive attributes to convince employer that you're the best person for the job. It's been my experience that most employers are more concerned with the resume and don't seem interested in the cover letter and why social profile (with keywords) is critical.

- John Muench

Bangor Maine Open Network

I still believe in a rock solid cover letter.

- Cintia Miranda

In today's job market, I believe both are necessary. A connection may get you in the door but a solid cover letter that markets your talents and abilities - key to locking down an interview opportunity.

- Kimberly Sawtelle

As Kim mentioned, networking and that cover letter both count. I mean, why are we spending time here on Linked In if they both weren't effective in their own ways? Not everyone is tied into social networking or online social media for that matter, but most everyone understands and appreciates a well-written cover letter that is dynamic and shows your skills and creative abilities to put the positive back in the ROI.

- Victoria Blanchette


Getting themselves known to you via social networking and in-person networking events gets my vote.

- Dan Bird, Old Town Fuel & Fiber, Maine

My recruiter and I discussed this and we both agreed that our first choice is in person networking, second cover letter, lastly, social networking.

- Beverly A. Widger, SVP HR
Claremont Savings Bank, New Hampshire

Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.