Most job seekers can agree that a resume is a non-negotiable component of a good job-search strategy. But when it comes to cover letters, they get a little less certain. Let’s discuss cover letter writing and if you need to include one or not.
Is a Cover Letter Necessary?
If you were to sit down with a panel of employers, it’s likely that 3 out of 5 would say they don’t even read the cover letter. Why, then, are so many job seekers fretting about what goes into this little-read document? It’s mostly because we’ve been trained to include a cover letter. And honestly, it’s probably good advice. If nothing else, it introduces the employer / reader to you and makes for a complete, polished presentation.
So while a cover letter may no longer be necessary, it is probably a good idea. And sometimes employers even specifically ask for them. In that case, you should definitely have one at the ready.
What Goes into Cover Letter Writing?
The biggest mistake job seekers make when it comes to cover letter writing is to include all kinds of information they don’t have in the resume. Remember that the majority of employers aren’t going to read your cover letter, so don’t add anything there you really want them to see. Also, if a company uses an applicant tracking system (ATS), the cover letter probably isn’t getting scanned into the system.
Think of your cover letter as enhancement of your resume. It should highlight and even repeat the information on the resume. It should not, however, add information they can’t find elsewhere.
Cover Letter Writing 101
Really, a cover letter should serve to introduce you, share your value proposition, and ask for an interview. That’s about it. So how do you structure that if you’re sitting down for a cover letter writing session? Shoot for four paragraphs.
Introduce yourself by saying how you heard about the position. If you’re applying blind, share something that will pique the reader’s interest.
This is where you showcase your value. Essentially, you’re restating the summary of your resume.
Bullet three of your best or most impressive accomplishments from your resume. You can copy them directly.
Thank the reader for considering you for the position. Say again how qualified you are and how you look forward to a personal interview.
Be Sure to Brand Yourself!
Your cover letter should have the same look and feel as your resume. Use the same header and paper, if you’re sending a physical copy. Of course, follow the rules of letter writing you learned in high school or college: add the name and address of the company and date. Also, sign the letter.
If you’re emailing your resume, you can use the body of your cover letter in the email itself. If you’re applying online, you can either upload the letter as a separate attachment or use it as the first page of your resume that you upload.
If you’re stuck on cover letter writing, The Grammar Doctors can help. Contact us for a free resume review.