Find Out If You Need a Cover Letter
Learn When You Should Submit a Cover Letter With a Resume
Do you really need a cover letter when you apply for jobs? Can you get by with just a resume? How about if the company doesn't ask for a cover letter?
Should you include a cover letter even when it's not required? With today’s competitive job market, the answers to these questions are important. In most cases, a cover letter will only help your candidacy for the job. Done right, a cover letter is a way to highlight your most relevant skills and qualifications for the job.
Your cover letter is a good way to show an employer what you want them to know about you, without the hiring manager having to figure it out themselves from your resume.
(Almost) Always Send a Cover Letter
Many career experts agree that sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision. Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert, says, "Your cover letter is particularly important. It's the job searcher's opportunity to help the potential employer see that the applicant's skills and experience match what the employer seeks. A well-written cover letter distinguishes your application."
Career expert Heather Huhman notes that "Cover letters allow you – in narrative form – to tell the employer exactly why hiring you, instead of the numerous other candidates, is a good decision.”
A cover letter can make a good impression on a prospective employer and is an excellent way to show that employer why you are a strong candidate for the job.
It is also a useful way to explain away any potential concerns the employer might have about your candidacy, such as gaps in your employment or the fact that you will need to relocate for the job.
Even if a job application does not require a cover letter, you can send one anyway. Often, employers expect a cover letter even if they do not directly ask for one.
Even if they do not necessarily need a cover letter, sending one will demonstrate that you are a motivated candidate.
When Not to Send a Cover Letter
If you're applying online for a job and there is no way to upload or post a cover letter, don't worry about it. You don't need one.
When the employer specifically states what they want in a job application (resume, references, etc.), you don't have to write a cover letter.
Make Sure It's a Good One
While a well-written cover letter may increase your chances of getting an interview, the opposite is also true. A poorly written cover letter will likely cause an employer to reject your application. Therefore, only send one if you have the time to write a clear, concise and well written letter that makes a strong sales pitch for getting an interview.
Make sure you write a targeted cover letter that specifically relates your experience to the job posting. Keep it short and sweet – 3 - 5 paragraphs – with each paragraph focusing on an aspect of your candidacy.
Finally, be sure to thoroughly edit your cover letter. Typos and grammatical errors will demonstrate a sloppy work ethic to the employer.
Review Cover Letter Samples
Before you start, check out these cover letter examples to get ideas for your own letters.
More About Cover Letters:How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be? | Should You Include a Cover Letter When It's Not Required?
Learn When (and When Not) to Include a Cover Letter With Your Resume
Do you really need a cover letter if a company doesn't ask for one? Composing a lot of cover letters during a job search can be challenging and time-consuming. Because of this, it's not surprising that applicants often hesitate to include a cover letter when it is not explicitly required by an employer.
If you're wondering if you should include a cover letter, the short answer is yes. You should almost always submit a cover letter, even if it is not required, but there are a few exceptions.
First, let's look at why cover letters have value.
Why it Makes Sense to Write a Cover Letter
If you're serious about landing the job, a well-written cover letter gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate. A cover letter also affords you the opportunity to highlight your strongest qualifications.
An effective, customized cover letter will also make it clear that you are highly interested in the job. That's because it shows the hiring manager that you want the job enough to take the time to go the extra distance.
A cover letter also gives you an opportunity to include details that your resume does not contain. For example, if you are applying from a distance, your cover letter will enable you to present a rationale for relocation and to mention that you will be in the area shortly for a possible interview. Gaps in employment with reasonable explanations can also be addressed in your letter.
A cover letter is also an ideal place to provide specific examples that prove you have the skills and experience listed on your resume.
Additionally, employers often expect to receive cover letters even though they did not stipulate the need for a cover letter in their job advertisements. Candidates who don't take the time to compose a letter are often viewed as less motivated for the job.
In many cases, employers won't even look at a job application that doesn't contain a cover letter or letter of interest.
When Not to Include a Cover Letter
No letter is much better than a poorly written one. A well-composed cover letter serves as a sample of your writing ability but, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don't have time to write a well-crafted cover letter that pitches your skills and positions you for the job, forego the effort.
Likewise, if the job application instructs that you should not include a cover letter, then it's definitely best to follow directions so as not to annoy your potential employer.
Also, if the company asks you to submit your application through an online platform, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter, don't worry about it.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter When It’s Not Required
- Write a targeted cover letter. Be sure to write a targeted letter. This is a cover letter written with the job listing in mind. Focus on the skills and abilities that you possess that make you a strong fit for the specific job.
- Keep it short. Make sure that your letters are concise (no more than one page topping out at five paragraphs) and that every statement you make conveys something significant about your qualifications for the candidacy.
- Go beyond the resume. Avoid simply repeating your resume. Provide examples not listed in your resume, and expand upon things mentioned only briefly in your resume. Your cover letter should have a distinct purpose in regards to your application.
- Edit, edit, edit. Errors in your cover letter can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Errors make you look sloppy, or worse, not educated. Be sure to thoroughly read your letter before submitting it. Consider asking a friend or colleague to read it as well to check for typos, grammatical errors, and confusing language.
Read More: How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be? | Cover Letter Examples and Tips | Targeted Cover Letters