Are Cover Letters Necessary to Include for a Job (2021)
Are cover letters necessary to have as part of your job application? It's an important question. And one that many job seekers ask during their job search. Let's determine whether writing and attaching a cover letter to your job application is important.
And whether it's required.
How important is a cover letter?
Here are the studies that are important to note:
- 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important to making their hiring decision.
- 56% of hiring managers want applicants to attach a cover letter to their resume.
- 49% of managers consider cover letter second best thing to a powerful resume.
Is a cover letter important, then?
Well, yes! A cover letter is very important. An overwhelming majority of HR managers agree, that a cover letter is useful to include.
The issue is that many hiring managers aren't going to read your cover letter. Though, they find it very important to attach one.
Why don't hiring manager's read cover letters anymore? They might not have enough time. And they're more likely to read your resume before your covering letter.
Consider your cover letter one of the many helpful resources that can assist the manager in making a hiring decision, similar to reference letters and recommendation letters.
Is this strange?
It could be considered odd that a hiring manager expects to see a cover letter but might not read it. Why is that?
A manager might use the cover letter as a backup source of information. Presume your resume doesn't speak as loudly as it should. If that's the case, then the hiring manager might use the cover letter to better understand who you are. And what you could offer.
The best way to make sure that your resume doesn't become questioned during the hiring process is to write a customized resume that speaks to the job posting/job description.
When is it necessary to have a cover letter?
Is a cover letter optional? When should a cover letter be included in a job application?
Here's the short answer, always include a cover letter in your job application.
There are some circumstances where you can ensure that cover letter addresses specific employment scenarios for the hiring manager.
Here are a few:
- Having a confusing resume.
- Gaps in employment history.
- When desiring to relocate.
- When showcasing key skills.
- Utilizing a personal connection.
- In cases when information doesn't fit on the resume.
A confusing resume
Presume that the resume has jobs in all types of industries. Or with varying job titles.
This could be a confusing resume for the hiring manager.
In this circumstance, you can use a well-written cover letter to address your work history. And why you're applying to the company and the job title.
This is valuable real estate for a cover letter to address concerns the manager could have in the future.
Gaps in work history (employment gaps)
Having significant gaps in employment history can be confusing to the manager.
Addressing why you have these gaps is an important thing to cover in your letter.
For example, having gaps in employment history due to maternity leave. Or deciding to be a parent for a few years before returning to work.
These are great reasons to take time off. As well as a great reason to return to work.
Your cover letter can address this and ensure the manager is aware of your desire to return to the workforce. And can generally explain gaps in your resume that your resume can't help to address.
A relocation request
Do you currently live in another state? And applying to a job where you will have to request relocation?
If so, this is a great reason to write a cover letter that specifically addresses your desire to move to another state.
In the cover letter, you can include your current address and desired location.
And include a short note that addresses why you're looking to relocate. Or what requirements you could have regarding relocation.
Showcasing key skills
The best use of a cover letter. Writing about your competencies, skills, and other factors that could assist in your job application.
Hiring managers are very interested in learning what you'll bring to the company.
Are there certain skills that you have that can speak to the job description/job posting/job ad requirements?
Use a professional cover letter to speak to work experiences and achievements. These achievements should signify which hard skills and soft skills you can bring to the company.
Pro tip: Be sure to choose the right resume format. It's more common to use a chronological resume than a CV. Learn what a CV is.
Using a personal connection
Having a personal connections with the company is a great way to promote yourself internally.
A connection with the business can be very useful. This person can act as a type of recommendation. Or reference for the particular position.
When the hiring manager reads the cover letter, they'll become aware of who are connected with internally.
And can use that information to their advantage. For example, contacting the person you're connected with to validate your competencies, work history, and more.
Pro tip: Always address the cover letter by using the hiring manager's name.
When information doesn't fit on the resume
If you want to keep your resume to one-page, then a lot of information about yourself might not fit.
In today's job market, a candidate is required to have all of the competencies and skills for a job. A significant amount of work history that speaks to a particular job/job title. And more.
In order to make sure this is all covered in your job application, your resume might lose space.
When that's the case, use your cover letter to include relevant experiences that assist the prospective employer with evaluating your professional history.
Pro tip: Never use the same cover letter and resume for every job application. Always customize your letter to each employer. Their values. And more. A generic cover letter almost never works.
Using a cover letter and going through the "cover letter create" process is useful in evaluating your own work history.
Does your current job not match the new job that you want? Do you want to change careers entirely?
A cover letter can provide the opportunity to speak with the employer and address desired changes in your career.
For example, desiring to change industries. In this case, it's useful to describe how your current job/last job are going to present transferrable skills that be utilized the prospective employer.
When you're very passionate
Being incredibly passionate about a job opening is a great way to stand out. How are you going to explain why your last position or your career makes you extremely passionate about this opportunity?
It's going to be nearly impossible to communicate that through your resume.
Especially since a resume should be very functional. Providing a career objective, work history, education, and certifications.
The cover letter presents a floor to communicate with the manager. And express your desire to work with the company.
You have the opportunity to speak about the company culture, values, and position requirements that resonate with you.
Other circumstances where a cover letter is useful
Writing a great cover letter is always useful, remember that.
Other situations where the cover letter could be even more important is when:
- You're new to the field. If you're new to the field and you need to explain why you're a great fit for the position, the cover letter would be your place to do that. You get the opportunity to speak directly to the hiring manager.
- Applying for a higher-level position. Senior executives should always include a cover letter with their job application. It should include references to the industry, their achievements, general plans for the position once they're employed, and display a high degree of writing skills.
Lastly, you should always write a cover letter when you want to stand out from other applicants. And you have a clear idea of how you're going to do that.
Either by meeting/exceeding the job requirements. Or by having a large amount of experience for the specific job you want. This is great real estate to use. Use it!
When can you skip having a cover letter?
When is it appropriate to skip having a cover letter?
- When your future employer doesn't want one.
- If the cover letter is weak.
- When you didn't customize the cover letter.
Note, most job applications will not say "cover letter required" in the application portal. They will always indicate that the cover letter is optional.
If it says "optional," that does not mean that you should skip writing one. All career experts suggest writing a cover letter.
Employer doesn't want one
When your employer specifically says, "A cover letter is not required for this job."
This particular company is not requiring a cover letter. In job postings or a job ad, it's possible that the prospective employer will list this in the description.
Usually, it's placed at the bottom of the job description, where it informs you on how to apply for the position.
It could say something like the following:
To apply for this position, please send an email to [email protected] Please note, you do not need to send us a cover letter for this position. Thank you for your time.
A weak cover letter
Are your writing skills subpar to the position?
It's okay if they are.
Have a friend read through your cover letter and give you honest feedback about the writing. Is it useful to the application? Or less useful?
Skip writing a cover letter if the letter is going to speak something negative about yourself.
Get career advice from a mentor if you feel your writing isn't going to meet the standards of the company you're applying for.
Or, use cover letter examples for the exact position you're applying for. And use that as a guide when writing your own.
A cover letter that isn't customized
It's a requirement to achieve results in your job search. Defining your career success, inside the cover letter, specifically for the job and company you want to work for. This is the best way to ensure that you land your dream job.
If the letter isn't customized to the employer. Or to the hiring manager. And what they require from a successful employee, skip including your letter.
When you write a cover letter email
A cover letter email is when the cover letter is inside the job application email body.
While it's recommended that the cover letter still be included in the job application email, if you decide to write only a cover letter email, then skip the cover letter attachment.
Though, consider what this says about you. Would you write an email without a resume attached? Probably not.
It's best to write both a cover letter email and cover letter, specifically.
Do you need a cover letter and resume?
Do employers read cover letters? Well, the answer is no. Though remember, it's very important to write cover letters for the job and company that you want to be employed at.
Writing a cover letter, specifically for the job you want, is the best way to ensure that the hiring manager understands your passion for the position.
Meaning, a thoughtful cover letter and resume is very important to your job application.
Do you need a cover letter and resume? Yes.
Cover letter format for job seekers
What should be inside the letter
Here is what should be inside the letter:
- Your full name.
- Contact details.
- Email address.
- LinkedIn profile.
- Current date.
- Hiring manager's name.
- Employer's contact information.
- Three paragraphs, including an opening paragraph, body paragraph, and closing paragraph.
Use the following format to write your own effective cover letter.
Format to use
Hiring Manager’s Name/Recruiter’s Name
Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. (Hiring Manager’s Last Name):
When possible, address the reader or specific person the job application is getting sent to.
Open with a strong first paragraph that supports what you believe the role and company both value. Use this as a way of telling the hiring manager that the resume and cover letter have gotten designed around your ideas. And around what they value.
Please take a few career achievements and place them here. You can list them in bullet style format or speak to them through significant work experiences. Keep it brief. Mention that you believe these accomplishments show relevant skills and abilities that are right for the job.
Close your cover letter with a clear call to action. Mention available times to have a phone interview. Or suggest they continue to read your resume for more insights on what you can bring to the company.
Thank you so much for your time,
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I'm looking forward to speaking with you and the team.
Example cover letter
Below is a basic template for a "good cover letter." And should be used as a guide, only.
334 Magnolia Lane
Singleton, Minnesota 78958
June 3rd, 2021
8847 Iris Lane
Singleton, Minnesota 78958
Mr. Hanson —
Your recent software release that allows for better communication between devices is something that stood out to me. When I began looking more into your company culture, I noticed that you are always seeking to simplify complex challenges. And this is an environment I feel I strongly need to be around.
Since I’m looking to join the company as a Marketing Manager, I felt it’s relevant to share with you my experience at school developing Instagram accounts for coursework. We used viral science and neuroscience background to grow 10 Instagram accounts to over 100k followers in 90 days.
Please view my projects at @nueronetwork to see them in full detail. And please read my resume to find out more relevant work about me. That might show you what I can bring to the internship program.
I’m available to speak by phone or in person at your convenience.
Thank you so much,
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
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