As a job candidate, should you submit a cover letter along with your resume? Some feel that cover letters are outdated and unnecessary for a successful job search. They reason, “Why go through the extra effort of crafting a great cover letter when the recruiter or hiring manager may not even give it a second glance?”
In reality, however, a well-written cover letter may be just what you need to get noticed by a hiring manager. Cover letters have a positive impact on your chances of landing a job in more ways than one. Let’s discuss why you should write a cover letter, what to include, and how yours can help you to stand out from the competition.
Why Write a Cover Letter?
It’s true that writing an exceptional cover letter may not be enough to win an open position. On the other hand, including a cover letter with your resume often will greatly enhance your odds of landing the job.
For example, one study found that 53% of employers believe that a resume by itself is not sufficient for a candidate to get noticed. Moreover, 49% of HR managers say that including a cover letter is the second-best way to call attention to your resume (apart from customizing the resume to the specific role you’re applying for).
The fact is, candidates who are applying for the same position will often submit very similar resumes. However, a cover letter can be the “tiebreaker,” It elevates one candidate over another. At the very least, it will assuredly leave a favorable “first impression” on the company’s hiring manager. Really, the question is: Why shouldn’t you include a cover letter with your application?
What Should Cover Letters Include?
In order to compose an impressive cover letter, it’s important first to understand what information it should contain. The basic purpose of a cover letter is to introduce you to an employer “through a personalized explanation of your qualifications and interest in a position.”
Your cover letter should include an introductory paragraph that explains who you are and why you want the job. In the next few paragraphs, focus on your skills and qualifications for the position. Discuss your values and goals (which will indicate how well you’ll fit into the company’s culture). Finally, you should wrap up by expressing a desire to continue the dialogue with the hiring manager. Don’t forget to thank them for their time.
In your letter, make sure you are specific as to why you’re interested in the job, why you’re qualified for it, and what you’ll bring to the table if hired. You don’t need to go into too much detail about your work history and experiences (after all, that’s what your resume is for). However, if you’ve had previous work experience that relates to the job at hand, endeavor to highlight any projects you worked on as well as their outcome and impact.
How Can Your Cover Letter Help You Stand Out?
Think of it this way. A resume is “table stakes.” But a cover letter is what you can use to “raise the ante” for the recruiter or hiring manager. A well-written, personalized cover letter doesn’t just show that you possess the basic qualifications for the open position. It demonstrates that you are truly invested in joining the company. You want to do everything within your power to make that happen.
Here are just a few of the many ways that your cover letter can help you to receive that extra bit of attention from the hiring manager:
- It’s a great way to display your professionalism. Consider the impact that a polite, concise, and mistake-free cover letter could have on the hiring manager. From their point of view, any candidate that puts that much time and effort into a cover letter is likely to also give their job duties the care and attention they deserve. A cover letter will likely get you noticed by a recruiter. Better yet, it can really make an impression on the manager who has to make the final hiring decision.
- You can use the cover letter to provide additional details on your work history. For example, what if there’s a significant gap in your work history? Or what if you have specialized skills that you found difficult to include in your resume? You can use your cover letter to provide explanatory details about that gap. Or highlight those skills that may make you an even more attractive candidate.
- It’s a perfect opportunity to “sell yourself” to the hiring manager as an exceptional candidate. In your cover letter, you want to clearly state why you think you’d be a perfect fit for the role. What value do you bring to the table if hired? In this context, cover letters can go much further than a resume by itself. You could think of it this way: a resume states the facts of your skills and experience. However, a cover letter explains why those facts should matter to the hiring manager.
Of course, you want to write your cover letter in an authentic and uncomplicated way. Don’t be overly casual or use slang words. At the same time, keep your letter simple and to the point (in most cases, it’s a good idea to aim for a one-page cover letter).
Put Your Best Foot Forward
If you put in the effort to compose a personalized cover letter and submit it along with your resume, you may find that you’ll receive an interview request in short order… and hopefully a job offer after that! If you’d like to learn more about how to put your “best foot forward” during your job search, reach out to our team of experts at The Doyle Group, or check out our catalog of helpful resources today.