Q&A: Should You Include a Cover Letter?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 28, 2021 | Published June 30, 2017

Updated July 28, 2021

Published June 30, 2017

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter: Top 3 Tips, Format & Examples

In this video, Holl explains what employers want from a cover letter, the optimal cover letter format, and 3 key strategies for success.

Cover letters are a time-consuming part of the job application process, especially when done well. You might be wondering: Should I include a cover letter in my job application?

The answer: Many career experts agree that sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision. In the world of automated applications, a well-written cover letter allows you to show a personal side and demonstrate why hiring you is a smart move. It’s a way to stand out among hundreds of other candidates.

What do include in your cover letter

Here are some guidelines to take into account:

Cover Letter Format

Image description

Cover Letter Format

  1. Date and contact information

  2. Salutation or greeting

  3. Opening paragraph

  4. Middle paragraph(s)

  5. Closing paragraph

  6. Letter ending and signature

Emphasize and highlight important keywords

Ideally, job applicants should tailor their cover letters to the individual hiring manager and position, incorporating specific keywords that align with the job posting. Don’t just repeat what’s in your resume. Instead, sell your interest in the position and tell a unique story about why you are the perfect fit for the role. Cover letters should be free of typos and incorrect information as hiring managers often rely on these details to evaluate your ability to follow directions or work ethic.

Share your unique story but connect it to the role

Related: Cover Letter Tips - FIGS Employee

Not sure how to write a cover letter? Sometimes it's easiest to learn by example. Gabriella, a team specialist for FIGS, shares the cover letter that helped her get the job.

As you are tailoring your cover letter, you want to share job experiences or personal stories as they relate to the job you’re applying to. You can be creative in how you do this but always bring it back to the requirements of the role. In How to Write a Cover Letter, you’ll see examples of how to write a creative cover letter or a more conventional one — both are strong options if done well.

Have a conversation with smaller companies

Roles at smaller companies can have a big impact on the organization’s culture, so hiring managers will sometimes use cover letters to determine how well a candidate will fit in with the team. This means your cover letter can have an especially meaningful effect by allowing you to introduce yourself, reference why you’d be a good fit for the role and the mission of the company, and make a personal connection.

Address gaps and concerns

Your cover letter is also the perfect place to proactively address issues or potential concerns. It can explain irregularities in your employment, short-term positions and even incomplete degrees. Don’t leave potential employers to guess or assume the worst. Instead, take this opportunity to tell your story on your own terms and in the most positive way possible.

Caveat: when not to send a cover letter

There are instances when it is not appropriate to send a cover letter—specifically when an employer does not request one and/or the job application software does not allow for additional document attachments. If this is the case, follow the employer’s instructions. And, make sure your resume includes plenty of keywords that align with the job description. If the online application offers the cover letter as “optional,” take this option and increase your chances of moving forward in the process.

Here are additional resources to help you complete your job applications successfully:

  • Start with the basics on writing your cover letter: follow instructions, tell the story of your career in your own voice and capture the attention of the hiring manager.

  • After you’ve written your cover letter, you’ll want to edit and proofread to ensure you aren’t making mistakes that might cost you the job.

  • Finally, double back and spend time proofreading your resume to make sure all of the information in both documents is consistent throughout and relevant to the job.

While you’re putting in the work of applying to jobs, you can also have employers contact you with fresh opportunities. Get started with an Indeed Resume.

Related: Job Cast: Cover Letter Tips: How To Write One and When It's Necessary

This online workshop offers tools to write clear, concise and compelling cover letters that effectively communicate your value.

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