When you apply for an open position at an organization, employers require you to fill out a resume and submit it as part of the application process. Some companies also require you to send a cover letter with your resume to explain why you’re qualified for the position. While a cover letter may be optional for some positions, it’s usually a good idea to include one in any application you submit. In this article, we discuss what a cover letter is, why it’s important for you to send one with your resume and other tips you should consider before submission.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page message sent with an application that provides information about the position you’re applying for, your qualifications in relation to the position and why you’re interested in working for the company. A well-written cover letter can help you stand out from the rest of the competition.
How important is a cover letter?
Some companies value cover letters more than others depending on the position you apply for, but it’s still an important tool for you to use that can help you get noticed.
Here are a few reasons why a cover letter can help you get the job:
It tells your story
The cover letter gives you the opportunity to elaborate on your story before getting the chance to interview with the hiring manager. While you get the chance to exhibit your qualifications for the job and explain what makes you a good fit, an employer gets to know more about your current situation. For example, you may have left a previous employer and are trying to start a new career path, or you’re an entry-level employee who’s looking to gain professional work experience.
Either way, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to define your personal brand and demonstrate what type of core values you can bring to the company.
It builds a relationship with the employer
Building relationships is pivotal to getting a job that aligns with your career goals. The same applies to writing a cover letter. The main difference between sending a resume and a cover letter is that a resume covers the facts about what you’ve done, whereas a cover letter displays your personality to an employer.
It’s highly recommended that you show what accomplishments had the most meaning to you in your professional career and why. By explaining your accomplishments, you’re highlighting what brings meaning to you in the workplace and why.
It explains your relationship with someone who referred you
You may be in a position where you’ve leveraged networking to help you get a job. Maybe you were part of an informational interview or know someone who works there (such as a friend or family member) or maybe you heard of the position at a networking event. Regardless, a cover letter explains how you met your referral and how your conversation with them inspired you to apply.
Related: Informational Interview Questions
When to submit a cover letter
Here are some common scenarios in which you should include a cover letter with your resume:
- If the position requires one: It should state explicitly on the job application if you need to send a cover letter. If it says it’s optional, prepare a cover letter and send it, along with your application.
- If the employer requires one during the interview process: If you apply for a position without a cover letter and still get an interview, an employer may still want one for the hiring manager to review. This is rare, but it can still be a possibility. You should always have a cover letter prepared for a position even if it doesn’t require one.
- If you know the name of the hiring manager: Address your cover letter to the hiring manager if you know their name directly. An indirect referral might know the name of a hiring manager, which can help you address the right person.
- If someone referred you to the position: Send your cover letter to the person you know within the company. They’ll either send it to the recruiter in the human resources department or to the hiring manager for their organization.
Cover letter tips
The resume and cover letter are usually the main pieces of content that an applicant sends to an employer. However, consider these tips before submitting your resume and cover letter for the next job you apply to.
- Read the job description. A job description will usually list the desired qualifications for the job. This can help you figure out if you’re the right fit for this role. Be sure to also pay attention to any application instructions written in the description. This step reveals what materials they need to review in order for them to consider your application. Even with a referral, you’ll still need to follow the steps listed in the job description.
- Allocate your time properly. You should be sending most of your time customizing your resume and cover letter for the job. An employer wants to know how you can benefit the company, so your resume and cover letter should convey this.
- Create a portfolio. Create a portfolio to showcase the work you’ve done throughout your career. You can also include a copy of your resume, which makes it easier for the employer to see everything all on one page. If you get to the interview stage, consider having a print copy of your portfolio to show to your hiring manager.
- Monitor your social media. Today, more employers check social media accounts to see what an applicant has posted publicly. This can be an indication for employers to see if you’re the right fit for their company. Be mindful of what you post on your social media accounts, and post links to your social media accounts in your portfolio if you’re applying to a job in that field.