Cover letters are a time-consuming part of the job application process, especially when done well. You might be wondering: Should I include a cover letter in my job application?
The answer: Many career experts agree that sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision. In the world of automated applications, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to show a personal side and demonstrate why hiring you is a smart move. It’s a way to stand out among hundreds of other candidates. Here are some guidelines to take into account:
Emphasize and highlight important keywords
Ideally, job applicants should tailor their cover letters to the individual hiring manager and position, incorporating specific keywords that align to the job posting. Don’t just repeat what’s in your resume. Instead, sell your interest in the position and tell a unique story about why you are perfect fit for the role. Cover letters should be free of typos and incorrect information — hiring managers often rely these details to evaluate your ability to follow directions or work ethic.
Share your unique story but connect it to the role
As you are tailoring your cover letter, you want to share job experiences or personal stories as they relate to the job you’re applying to. You can be creative in how you do this but always bring it back to the requirements of the role. In How to Write a Cover Letter, you’ll see examples of how to write a creative cover letter or a more conventional one — both are strong options if done well.
Have a conversation with smaller companies
Roles at smaller companies can have a big impact on the organization’s culture, so hiring managers will sometimes use cover letters to determine how well a candidate will fit in with the team. This means your cover letter can have an especially meaningful effect by allowing you to introduce yourself, reference why you’d be a good fit for the role and the mission of the company, and make a personal connection.
Address gaps and concerns
Your cover letter is also the perfect place to proactively address issues or potential concerns. It can explain irregularities in your employment, short-term positions and even incomplete degrees. Don’t leave potential employers to guess or assume the worst. Instead, take this opportunity to tell your story on your own terms and in the most positive way possible.
Caveat: when not to send a cover letter
There are instances when it is not appropriate to send a cover letter — specifically when an employer does not request one and/or the job application software does not allow for additional document attachments. If this is the case, follow the employer’s instructions. And, make sure your resume includes plenty of keywords that align to the job description. If the online application offers the cover letter as “optional,” take this option and increase your chances of moving forward in the process.
Here are additional resources to help you complete your job applications successfully:
- Start with the basics on writing your cover letter: follow instructions, tell the story of your career in your own voice and capture the attention of the hiring manager.
- After you’ve written your cover letter, you’ll want to edit and proofread to ensure you aren’t making mistakes that might cost you the job.
- Finally, double back and spend time proofreading your resume to make sure all of the information in both documents is consistent throughout and relevant to the job.
While you’re putting in the work of applying to jobs, you can also have employers contact you with fresh opportunities. Get started with an Indeed Resume.
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Creating an unique cover letter for each job you’re applying for can be time-consuming and challenging. Although it may not be required by the job, the answer is yes; you should always submit a cover letter with your resume any time it’s possible.
Submitting a cover letter will increase your chances of getting a job by:
- Giving you an opportunity to highlight your strongest qualifications and explain why you are the best candidate for the job. Sell yourself; after all, you know you could be an incredible asset to the company. It’s imperative to explain your value to the employer because your resume doesn’t always provide that opportunity.
- Showing you are taking the job search seriously by dedicating time to write a cover letter. Not everyone writes cover letters, and the effort you put into one could be a factor in why you did or did not get the position.
- Allowing you to provide examples of skills and experience you have listed on your resume. By providing examples, you are allowing a recruiter to get a better understanding of why you would be the best person for the position.
Although it’s recommended you write a cover letter applying for a new opportunity, you don’t want to if it will provide the wrong impression. Reasons to skip submitting a cover letter with your resume include:
- Writing a poor one. The point of including a cover letter is to enhance your resume, not hurt it. If you are not a skilled writer, or you do not have the time to write one, do not submit something that could hurt your chances.
- Sending one even though the application instructs you not to. Read the application carefully. You don’t want to ruin your chances of getting a job just because you failed to follow instructions.
- Submitting your application through an online platform that does not give you a way to add a cover letter to your resume. If there’s no way to send one, don’t worry about it. The chances are the company did that intentionally.
As you put your cover letter together keep the following tips in mind:
- Tailor the cover letter to make sure it is written for the job you are applying for. Highlight the skills and qualifications you have that will show why you are the best person for the position.
- Elaborate on the resume. Don’t just write the same thing in your cover letter as you did on your resume. Instead, expand on things you may have only been able to touch on when briefly filling out your application.
- Don’t go overboard. Keep the cover letter to 3-5 paragraphs and ensure each thing you write will make an impact on the recruiter or hiring manager.
- Use proper grammar. Talking in slang or using emojis to communicate with your friends may be okay, but when you’re writing to a potential employer, keep it professional by making sure to check for any typos or errors.
If you are struggling to land a better job due to your inexperience with writing cover letters or resumes, The Jobs Partnership offers a no cost, 12-week training program that not only helps you with the application process but connects you with the specialized training needed for some of the most in-demand career fields. The LifeWorks program can help you discover the job you were made for. Call us at 407-641-0755 or apply here to see why graduates become unstoppable on a new path to career and life success.