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Why You Should Always Read The Cover Letter


With millions of Americans unemployed, hiring managers may feel they can have their pick from an avalanche of candidates — and they may spend less time on reviewing candidates' application materials if applicants are plentiful. The cover letter was already often overlooked; a growing number of companies are no longer even requiring one.

On the other hand, the requirement for strong writing skills continues to make its way into commercial real estate job descriptions in all manner of roles and sectors, from asset managers to private equity to retail leasing, from internships up to C-suite positions. And one of the rawest and most honest examples of a candidate’s ability to communicate in writing, and one of the job application's only opportunities for creativity, is the cover letter, CRE Recruiting principal Allison Weiss said.

“When you’re thinking about professional communication, whether you’re responding to an email, putting together a presentation or writing a white paper, you have to first be able to successfully navigate the unique communication and vocabulary that is involved in our business,” Weiss said. “Second, you need to be able, in your writing, to come from a place of authority — to write in a polished, professional voice.”

Brokers are constantly positioning opportunities to appeal to the market. Weiss said she reminds hiring parties that the better a candidate's writing skills, the more compelling their presentation of that opportunity will be. 

“Say you’re putting together an offer memorandum: How are you going to write a compelling executive summary? How are you going to highlight the different benefits and features of this offer?”

To suss out these skills, Weiss told Bisnow she has had clients give prospective hires writing assignments, such as putting together a one-page market explainer on an unexpected tertiary market with which the candidate has no particular experience or familiarity, “just to test their ability to research, and bring info to the table, and the ability to write a compelling narrative.”

But the first peek into that ability is already on hiring managers’ desks in the form of the cover letter. And in light of the coronavirus's impact on the job market, she added the cover letter may become all the more illuminating. 

In the years following 2020, as many have been furloughed or laid off and may choose to leave the industry at least temporarily, some CRE résumés for promising candidates may appear less than conventional when it comes to gaps or recent jobs held. But the narrative of a candidate's experience as shared in the cover letter could speak more to qualification and to their interest and fit than the laundry list of their positions held. 

Across all industries, the qualities hiring teams value most are beginning to shift away from experience and hard skills that are particularly tailored to a role, while a combination of desirable characteristics including confidence, self- and social awareness, critical thinking and creativity have growing value. As automation threatens to supplant the need for certain cognitive skills, candidates with these skills will only be in higher demand — especially in commercial real estate where, as the economy recovers from the current downturn, CRE recruiters expect the industry's talent shortage will grow only more severe.

Related Topics: Top Talent