Good question. There has long been a debate about the merits of including a cover letter with your employment application. Some people strongly advocate for always including one and others will tell you that they’re a waste of time because they don’t get read.
With technological advancements people often upload their resume and don’t bother with a cover letter. That is ok, they are not always an essential requirement; however in a job search I would want to be better than ok. I would want to make an impression and would never apply without one.
Cover letters are an important part of your application. They afford you more freedom in terms of content and writing style than your resume. For instance it is fine to write in the first person (I, my, etc) in a cover letter whereas it doesn’t work in a resume.
My argument is simple. Your resume is designed specifically to gain you an interview. Not a job … an interview. The cover letter is designed to entice the employer to read your resume. A well-written cover letter can mean the difference between a quick scan of your resume or a more thorough read.
Just like your resume, a cover letter is a powerful sales tool. You are marketing yourself and any opportunity to present yourself to an employer should be taken. Not including a cover letter, to me, is like attending an interview without your shoes, or bread without butter — they go hand-in-hand.
When I was recruiting there were many times when I had 2 or 3 people’s resumes in front of me and had trouble deciding who to interview. I can tell you without doubt, the person who made the effort to include a targeted cover letter always got an interview.
In a sales and marketing campaign, which is precisely what a job search is, you need to use every opportunity to shine. To present the benefits of your product – you – to the employer. The cover letter is a perfect opportunity to do this.
Not everyone includes a letter so you immediately set yourself apart from the competition for having made the effort.
Most positions require some level of communication skills. You may be communicating internally with other staff or externally with clients. Cover letters are a good indication of your communication style and show potential employers that you can construct professional business communication free from error.
Cover letters can be quite persuasive. I will never forget a candidate I interviewed for a Financial Controller position. His cover letter was fantastic … well thought out, persuasive and by the end of the letter I was thinking “I have to meet this guy”. I then went onto the resume and was utterly disappointed. It was dreadful. I telephone screened him to cover a few areas of concern and invited him for interview. At the end of the interview I told him that if I had seen his resume alone I wouldn’t have interviewed him. His cover letter was the reason he was here. He ended up getting the position.
Cover letters demonstrate to the employer that you have taken time to craft an application, tailored to their needs. Good points.
The cover letter gives you more freedom than the resume. You can show the employer how you meet their needs. Mention things not included in your resume, eg outside interests and hobbies relevant to the role or experience that dates back further than 10 years.
Cover letters are also a good place to explain extended gaps in employment or a change in career.
If you don’t include one you run the risk of looking lazy or like a person who sits at a computer merrily blasting resumes off to anything that looks interesting. A person who has taken time to craft an individual letter immediately demonstrates initiative, effort and research.
The decision to include a cover letter is entirely yours to make, however my advice would be to use every opportunity and every tool at your disposal to make an impression with potential employers. They are well worth the effort.
For tips on how to construct a cover letter see Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts
© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant
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