Are cover letters necessary?

Between all the resources that jobseekers have today — from career portals to social media networks — you might be thinking “do I even need these cover letters?” Yet, many job applications still request cover letters along with your resume.

The general consensus by recruiters is that the cover letter has become obsolete in many cases. However, there will always be situations where a cover letter will be appropriate to use and even required by the hiring manager.

You may be asking yourself if you really need to take the time to create a cover letter. The answer comes down to the type of job that you may be applying for and where you are in your career currently.

Here are the two scenarios when using a cover letter is the right thing to do.

 

#1 A cover letter is requested in your application

As you encounter job leads, you will want to pay close attention to the requirements set forth by the hiring manager. In some cases, there may be a list of required documents found at the very bottom of the job posting. Sometimes this information will be lacking and therefore you must follow the instructions in the applicant tracking system.

For example, a very common way for employers to gather resumes, cover letters, another information about candidates is the use of social media sharing tools such as the LinkedIn job tool. While you will be able to connect your LinkedIn profile to your application you will also note a content box or attachment feature that allows you to send additional documentation.

Another example can be within an applicant tracking system that directly requests both a resume and a cover letter. For this reason we recommend that you have separate documents that you can attach and upload. You would also want to optimize your cover letter to the actual job itself. The Jobscan cover letter scanner is available to premium members to evaluate the quality of a cover letter before submitting it to an employer.  

 

#2 You are making a drastic career change or need to demonstrate newfound skills

The use of a cover letter will work in your favor if you are making a major career change. This also goes for being out of the workforce for a while before entering a new career. A cover letter can be a useful document for providing a focused introduction of your skills and abilities. Unlike a resume that basically shows historical data about your career, a cover letter can be sent to direct the hiring manager’s attention to your updated qualifications.

When crafting your cover letter be sure to think in terms of how you can demonstrate your value to the organization and what your top traits are, to sway the human resource team in your favor. For example, in your most recent jobs, you may have limited opportunities to demonstrate strong sales acumen. But since that job you may have owned a business and have developed outstanding sales abilities that you can now highlight on your cover letter. Think of your cover letter as a sales pitch to the organization.

 

Remember, keep it simple

A cover letter does not have to be elaborate. In fact, it should be very simple and to the point. Use a cover letter template as a guide. Start with a powerful opening statement to introduce yourself (think elevator pitch). Then make a quick list of your top 3 to 5 relevant qualities that have to do with the job that you are applying for. An easy way to come up with this list is to simply review the job posting requirements and then come up with related points for your cover letter. Be authentic and honest.

Wrap up your cover letter with an action statement encouraging the hiring manager to contact you. It’s vital to include your contact information and an active phone number where you may be reached. Last, but certainly not least, run your cover letter through Jobscan to make sure it helps your overall application match rate.

Your cover letter is a direct reflection of how you want to be viewed by potential hiring companies. Treat this document with care.


Tess C. Taylor, CCC, SHRM-CP is the founder and CEO of HR Knows, a career coaching and content development firm in New York. She is a seasoned and certified human resource professional and career coach, having worked in the software, health care, and service sectors for nearly 20 years. She is an award-winning author of ‘Corporate Wellness: 30 Days to a Wildly Successful Health and Wellness Fair‘ (free on Kindle) and has been featured in About.com, ADP Thrive, Dale Carnegie, HR Magazine, HR Gazette, and US News.

Feel free to follow Tess on any of her social media channels for more career and business advice.

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