Do You Need a Cover Letter? Benefits & Tips
You’ve found the perfect job to apply to. You’ve polished your resume. Are you ready to apply?
Well, maybe not quite. Many jobs require a cover letter as part of the application process. A 2019 study by The Ladders found the majority of tech jobs do, with a higher demand for cover letters from medium-sized companies and fast-growing startups.
Even when a job description doesn’t stipulate a cover letter requirement, you may want to send one. Here’s why and how to craft yours to stand out to hirers.
Cover Letter Benefits
A resume is a straightforward, quantitative view of your work experience. A cover letter shows a more personal side of you as a candidate. It explains why a company should hire you and how you match up to the job requirements.
When a job description requires a cover letter, you definitely need to send one. When a cover letter is optional, the benefits of sending one include:
- You can stand out among candidates who don’t send a cover letter, because you’re showing you’re going above and beyond for the job.
- The details you reveal in a cover letter may compel a hiring manager to move you along the hiring process.
- If there are questionable issues in your resume, like an employment gap or short-term employment, you can explain those in a cover letter in a positive light.
Cover letters do take extra time, especially because you should make each one personalized to the job you’re applying for. But when you’re really interested in a job, a cover letter could be the deciding factor that gets you your dream position.
When should you not send a cover letter?
If the job description states not to include a cover letter, then don’t send one. Doing so could be viewed negatively, that you’re not following directions.
If you’re submitting an application online and there’s nowhere to submit a cover letter, take that as a sign the employer doesn’t want one. There’s no need to go out of your way to send one when it’s not desired.
Otherwise, when you have an opportunity to send a cover letter, you should make the effort to send one and show the employer you’re invested in the potential job.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
A cover letter should be a one-page document that matches the design (fonts, colors, etc.) and contact information of your resume.
First, include your contact information and the date you’re writing the letter.
Then, greet the recipient. Address the letter to the hirer’s name, i.e., “Dear Jane Doe,” or “Dear John Smith.” If you don’t have the hirer’s name available, use, “Dear Hiring Manager.”
In your introduction, explain that you’re interested in applying for the specific position at the company’s name. If you were referred by someone, note that person’s name and title at that company. This establishes a personal connection, enhances your credibility and may pique the interest of the person reading the letter.
In the body of the letter, tell a compelling narrative about why you’re a candidate the hirer should be interested in. Explain how your specific experience and achievements make you the perfect fit for what the job requires.
Differentiate your cover letter from your resume. Give insight into your personality and what makes you different compared to others who have the same qualifications. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show how you’d be a cultural fit, so you may want to mention how you connect to the organization’s mission, product or service.
If you want to explain something from your resume, like a gap or potential concern (such as short-term employment, an incomplete degree, irregularities in employment, etc.), you can use your cover letter to do so in a positive light.
If you currently don’t live in the area where the job is, you can also use the letter to explain your interview availability or confirm your willingness to relocate.
To conclude the letter, show gratitude to the hirer for their consideration. Include a call to action to keep the conversation going – for example, something like, “I look forward to speaking with you soon and hope we can connect for an interview.” End the letter with a formal salutation, such as, “Sincerely, [your name].”
Avoid These Cover Letter Mistakes
Sending a bad letter is worse than sending no letter when there’s no cover letter requirement. Keep these pitfalls in mind.
- Sending out the same cover letter for multiple jobs: Each cover letter should be specific to the job you’re applying for. Savvy hiring managers will notice when a cover letter isn’t personalized. Sending one that has the wrong identifying details will eliminate you from the job pool.
- Typos: Hirers might view typos as a reflection of how you’d perform on the job.
- Inaccurate information: An exaggerated claim or dishonest detail may be investigated during the job search process. It could cost you the job and your reputation.
- Negative information: Don’t point out qualifications you’re missing or attempt to explain away any hesitations a hirer may have about your experience. Focus on your strengths and what you can offer.
Just like your resume, a cover letter is an important representation of your professional experience. Ensure it’s a positive, accurate reflection of your qualifications and employment desirability.
Use These Cover Letter Tips
As you craft a unique cover letter, remember these tips. Use these as a checklist before you send any cover letter.
- Keep it to one page.
- Proofread for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, contact information inaccuracies and false claims. Have someone you trust read it, as well, if possible.
- Explain what you can offer, not what you want. Focus on the value you can bring to the job and company.
- Highlight standout achievements when possible, instead of listing daily responsibilities.
- Use consistent design and contact information with your resume.
- Double-check that the cover letter follows any instructions that are given. Some companies may ask you to highlight certain topics in the cover letter.
Cover letters aren’t always required, but when you’re able to send one, they can make you stand out as a job candidate.
If you want expert eyes on your cover letter or need help getting started, contact HiConsulting Services for a free consultation. We offer cover letter writing assistance to ensure what you send makes a great impression.