Crafting a professional resume and cover letter takes time, and many job seekers will eventually find themselves asking, “Do I really need a cover letter?”

With job seekers today outnumbering jobs by as much as 106-to-one, the competition to secure employment has intensified, no thanks to the global pandemic. For those seeking work, it’s often a toss-up between perfecting every resume and cover letter or getting out as many applications as possible.

So, is a cover letter a must-have for every job? 

We take a look at when you need one, when you don’t, and how to get the most out of your cover letter.

When is a cover letter essential?

First and foremost, you need to include a cover letter in any job listing that specifically asks for one. Leaving a cover letter out when it’s requested almost guarantees that you’ll be passed over for applicants who took the time to write one.

If you have a fairly extensive professional history outlined on your resume, a cover letter is also useful for highlighting the skills and experience most relevant to the job in question.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a dream job but don’t have a huge amount of relevant experience, a cover letter is a good opportunity to communicate your passion for the industry and role and tell a story about why you should be given a job interview even if you aren’t the most qualified candidate.

In any case, consider your cover letter as another opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

When is a cover letter not needed?

There are some scenarios in which you don’t need a cover letter, such as when there’s nowhere to upload it in a job application or when you’re applying to someone you have worked with before or know well – and they’ve advised that one is not necessary. If you’re unsure, though, it’s best to err on the side of caution and include a cover letter to show you’re serious about the job. If you’re working with a recruiter or hiring manager, it’s best to ask directly.

Even if a cover letter isn’t necessary, remember that a resume still isn’t the be-all and end-all. 
In 2021, your professional profile extends to your LinkedIn and other social media profiles, and even a dedicated online portfolio (depending on your industry). With this in mind, it’s important to keep your social profiles up to date and relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.

RELATED: 8 ways to perfect your ‘social resume’

How to write a cover letter that stands out

So you’re applying for a job that asks for a cover letter, or you’ve decided it’s a good idea to include one anyway. What should you include in it? Employers and recruiters could be sifting through hundreds of cover letters to create a candidate shortlist, so it’s important to keep yours concise while clearly outlining why you’re the best person for the job

Make sure to:

  • Address the hiring manager by their name, if you know it
  • State the role you’re applying for
  • Include a compelling opening statement about why you’re a great fit for the job
  • Match your skills and experience to the job, including related keywords and phrases
  • Mention any relevant successes you’ve had in previous roles
  • Outline why you’re passionate about the job and industry
  • Close with a call to action to meet

Aim to keep your cover letter to one page and only include information that is relevant to the specific job you’re applying for – avoid filling the entire page but instead stick to a few concise paragraphs.

Hiring managers are busy, so brevity is key.

Need help writing a standout cover letter? Download our free cover letter templates.

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