Looking for a job requires some time and effort, and one of the tasks that job-seekers dread the most is writing their cover letter.
In fact, you may even wonder if this document is really necessary when sending an application.
If that question has even crossed your mind, keep reading to see why cover letters can help you land your next job.
What is a cover letter and why is it important?
A cover letter is a one-page text document that applicants send to an employer alongside their resume, where they introduce themselves, describe their professional experience, and explain why they are interested in that particular job opportunity.
An effective cover letter should do the following:
Address the employer. For example, “Dear sir/madam”, “To whom it may concern”, “Dear hiring manager”, etc.
Give the employer an idea of who you are.
Briefly explain why you’re a good fit for the position (e.g. keep it between 250-400 words long).
Provide your contact information to get in touch with you.
While some believe that cover letters are outdated, the reality is that they still play an important role in the recruiting process — and can increase your chances of getting a job interview.
They give you an opportunity to impress, make a good first impression, and unlike your resume, they allow you to express your enthusiasm and show some personality. All of this will ultimately help you stand out from the other candidates.
Having said that, and to answer the main question of this article, you don’t always need to include a cover letter in your applications, which brings us to the next topic...
When should you send a cover letter?
There are four scenarios in which a cover letter is necessary:
The job posting requires one. Some job descriptions state clearly that only applications which include a cover letter will be considered, in which case you obviously have to send one. Even if the cover letter is optional, we recommend that you still send one, as it will show how eager and committed you are.
77% of recruiters will give preference to candidates who send a cover letter even if it is optional.
The employer or recruiter asks for one during the interview process. This scenario doesn’t happen often, but when it comes to job hunting, it’s always best to be prepared.
You’re sending your application directly to a person and you know their name. In this case, you’ll most likely be addressing the hiring manager, and sending a cover letter allows you to be more personal.
Someone referred you to the position. In this case, the best practice is to send your cover letter to the employee that you know, so they can then forward it to the hiring manager or HR department.
We know what you might be thinking now…when exactly should you not submit a cover letter? There are actually two situations when you can skip this letter:
The job offer asks specifically that you don’t do it. After all, there are some employers who don’t believe that cover letters are still necessary in this day and age.
You’re not willing to write a compelling, personalized cover letter. If you’re just going to use a template and change minor details without putting any effort into it, then you might as well not send any letter. However, and as you can imagine, your chances of getting the job will reduce significantly.
Cover letter do’s and don’ts
Now that you know what a cover letter is, why it is important, and when you should and shouldn’t submit one, it’s time to get to the action!
Start drafting your own letter.
If you don’t know where to start, don’t panic, we’re about to teach you the essential best practices to keep in mind.
Do nail the cover letter structure
Being familiar with the best structure of a cover letter will help you ensure that you include all the crucial information:
Contact information (including your phone number, email, and if relevant, social media pages and professional website)
Name and title of the hiring manager, recruiter, or relevant department, as well as of the company
Greeting and introduction
Body of the content (mentioning your previous experience, achievements, and even awards, and describing your interest in the company and position)
Pro tip: If you’ve recently graduated and don’t have any professional experience to write about, make sure to include your academic achievements and put even more emphasis on your goals and aspirations as you enter the labor market.
Don’t repeat all the information in your resume
You don’t want to make the employer read the same exact information twice and, as such, it’s pivotal to ensure that your cover letter brings some value to your application.
Focus on the highlights of your career, without going into too much detail — if the employer wants to learn more, then they can check your resume, where you can have a more comprehensive approach.
Do mention what you can do for the company
A company will only hire you if they feel like you’re going to bring them added value, and your cover letter is an excellent opportunity for you to show how exactly you plan on doing that.
Be careful not to sound too boastful or overly confident. It’s always best to be humble and, of course, always be honest.
Don’t focus too much on what the job can do for you
Speaking too much about how you are going to benefit from being hired for the position will make you sound selfish, which is never a good look.
As we mentioned before, you do want to show enthusiasm about the opportunity, but the reality is that the employer is already familiar with the position and the perks that come with it, so don’t waste too much of the letter on this topic.
Do read about the company before you start writing
Employers can tell the difference between applicants who did their homework and applicants who sent a generic cover letter - and you never want to be in the latter group.
Before you start writing your letter, explore the company’s website to get a good understanding of the brand’s personality, values, and mission. This will help you communicate in the same tone as them, and even include some details that prove that you did, in fact, do your homework.
Don’t forget to proofread it
Typos in a cover letter are a big no-no, and that should almost come without saying. Before you click send on your application, make sure to proofread your letter and, if you want to take things one step further, you can use a tool like Grammarly or ask someone else to proofread it as well.
We recommend that you don’t just read the letter in your mind but actually read it out loud. This way, not only can you spot any mistakes, but you can make sure the text flows well and you don’t sound too robotic.
Remember, include a cover letter with your resume
Cover letters are still a big component of most company’s recruiting process, and if you are truly invested in getting the job of your dreams, our suggestion is that you take the time to create one that is personal, professional, compelling, and overall a good representation of who you are and why the employer should hire you.
Needless to say, a strong cover letter needs to be paired with an equally strong resume, and that’s exactly what you can create on our platform.
Ed is a self-taught coder, designer, and entrepreneur who has spent a bulk of his career helping early-stage startup companies grow their teams and products. His desire is to help talented individuals achieve new career goals by sharing his learnings on leading and growing teams.