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.
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.
Join over 80,000 readers!
Receive free advice to help give you a competitive edge in your career.