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Is a Cover Letter Necessary?

15 Sep, 2014

Is a Cover Letter Necessary?

One of the most commonly-asked questions when it comes to the job hunt has to be:

“Do I need a cover letter?” Yes, you do!

“Can’t I just send my resume without it?” Only if the employer, recruiter, or software refuses to let you submit the cover letter!

Why? Because the resume doesn’t create the first impression of you: the cover letter does. Make sure your cover letter is professional, targeted, and polished so that you create a strong first impression. An excellent cover letter almost always leads to the employer reading your resume.

Be aware of the importance of the cover letter. A cover letter can be defined as:

A writing sample that shows how well you write; or how well you don’t write, if that’s the case.

An opportunity to tell them any additional and relevant skills and experience that you have that sets you apart from the other applicants.

A chance to tell the employer how you specifically match the job opening–you get to spell it out for them (and you need to!) so that they don’t have to guess what your skills are. You get to tell them exactly how your skills, degree, background, and experience match the open position, the company’s mission, and the company’s culture. As you read the job description, pull out key words and plug them into your cover letter–as long as they accurately describe your talents.

Remember, the goal of the cover letter is for the employer to read it, be impressed, and move on to your resume. If they are not impressed with your cover letter, they will not look at your resume.

So, YES you need a cover letter and NO you can’t send your resume without it! But you aren’t alone–keep reading to see how to write a cover letter to impress the employers and recruiters.

As you create your cover letter, it needs to be easy to read! If it is too long or all one paragraph, the employer won’t read it. So break it up into 3 short paragraphs. Consider bulleting the points in one of your paragraphs to grab the eye of the reader.

Breaking down the 3 paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: The Introduction — Identify yourself in terms of your field, education, background, and the position for which you are applying. Catch the reader’s attention by making this paragraph strong and relevant, using key words directly from the job description.

Paragraph 2: Tell About Yourself — You want to tell the employer about your achievements as it relates specifically to this position you’re applying for. Focus on what the employer is seeking–look at the list job qualifications in the job posting and bullet the matching qualifications that you have. Be specific!

Paragraph 3: The Closing — Politely and professionally close the letter by inquiring about the next step in the hiring process and express your desire to move forward with meeting them in the near future. The following sentence is one possible, generic example: “Thank you for considering my qualifications and I look forward to talking with you more about the next step in the hiring process.”

There are many do’s and don’ts that you’ll want to be aware of before sending your cover letter.

DON’T:

  • Use italics, bolding, graphics, underling – it might not scan into the company’s database.
  • Use slang or acronyms. Industry-specific acronyms are acceptable, but be sure to completely write out any the employers may not know.

DO:

  • Use formal letterhead formatting.
  • Use nice resume paper to print the cover letter on.
  • Speak specifically to the job opening.
  • Pull out key words from the job posting that match your skills.
  • PROOFREAD!

Laura Gonzalez

Want to learn more about this career professional? Check out a full list of career articles, contact information, and biographical info by visiting her Career Experts member profile. LEARN MORE

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