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What is a cover letter?

There are a lot of elements to prepare and steps to follow when on the job hunt. The process can be challenging, overwhelming and confusing. This is especially true when it comes to submitting an application and whether or not to include a cover letter.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is like a personal introduction between yourself and the hiring manager. Usually, it is a one page document that includes the date, your contact information (address, phone number and email address, the same information for hiring manager, a job reference or identification number (if applicable) a subject line, an introduction paragraph, a body paragraph (or a few), a concluding paragraph and your signature.

Within the paragraph section, this is where you can bring forward some of your accomplishments, reasons you’d be a great fit for the job, experience your understanding of the position or the company, or whatever you’d like the hiring manager to know. The important thing is to get the interest of the reader so they want to read your resume for more information, without duplicating the same information that is on your resume.

What is the point of a cover letter?

When submitted in combination with a resume or CV (learn the difference here), the cover letter acts as the first impression and can be one of the most effective tools at scoring a new position. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, make a great impression and beat out the competition before the interview stage.

While resumes tend to be a fact-based review of your education and experiences, a cover letter is opportunity to entice the reader and want to give you the job. A cover letter offers the hiring manager a window to see the highlights of your life, career and accomplishments. When written convincingly, it can also convey your personality. Make the cover letter tell a story that your resume would never be able to tell.

Do I need one?

In most situations, the employer will list the requirements in the job posting. A cover letter and resume are a standard combination. That being said, cover letters aren’t always required; some postings may just say resume. However, it never hurts to add one. You won’t be disqualified for submitting a cover letter as well as a resume, but you can be eliminated if you don’t include one when you were required to.

Depending on the manager, failure to submit all the required documents will result in your application being discarded. It’s highly unlikely the hiring manager would reach out to you to rectify the situation. Recruiters get dozens of applications for one job, so make sure you follow all instructions and ask questions if you aren’t sure about something.

Is a standard cover letter enough?

No. Each cover letter should be customized to fit the needs of the position, just like your resume. While it’s good to have a boilerplate template to start with, you should highlight your skills and experience as they are related to the job you’re applying for.

When should I not include one?

You should only forego the cover letter when the posting explicitly says not to. Also, if the application is to be submitted online and there is no space or option to submit a cover letter, then you don’t need one there either. All other times, you should include one. Cover letters are important. Although it may never be read, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Author: Amy Richardson, Contributor

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