Is writing a cover letter necessary if the job listing doesn’t ask for one? And should you spend time writing one for each job application?
Writing cover letters is often time-consuming and confusing. This is why many applicants try to avoid it if possible. Especially if the job listing doesn’t require it, you may be tempted not to send one. But in most cases, that is not a good idea. While you should include it for most applications, there are exceptions.
Why is Cover Letter Necessary?
When applying for your dream job, a cover letter boosts your chances of landing an interview. It is your opportunity to present yourself to the employer and highlight what makes you the perfect candidate. These could be your qualifications, volunteering experience, or similar strengths. It can provide the context and details that you couldn’t include in your resume. Along with your resume, it is the first impression your future employer gets of you.
A well-written cover letter will also illustrate your interest in the job. The hiring manager will appreciate the work you have put in and your determination.
How Important is a Cover Letter?
Interestingly, more than half of all recruiters consider a cover letter necessary. Yet only about a quarter of recruiters actually read them. This is because it might help them make the final decision on who to hire. Also, it can be passed onto the employer to choose the right applicants. In short, it is your chance to impress the hiring manager or the employer in narrative form. It is the best supplement to the resume and can cement the hiring manager’s decision to invite you for an interview.
When is a Cover Letter Necessary?
You should always include a cover letter if the job description or the hiring manager asks for one. Apart from that, include one if you know the recruiter’s name, or if somebody referred you. Unless the job description says not to add one, you can also share it to give extra information. For example, if you have gaps in employment, are relocating or changing careers, this is your chance to provide context to these.
On the other hand, there are instances when you should not include a cover letter. For example, if a job description explicitly says not to send one. Also, it is better not to attach a cover letter than to attach a poorly written, generic one. To avoid this, find out How To Write a Great Cover Letter in 6 Steps.
4 Tips to Write a Compelling Cover Letter
- Use keywords – Pay attention to the qualities required by the job description. Then, make sure to include these in your cover letter as well as your resume. This will catch the recruiter’s eye and help you stand out. Primarily, highlight those skills and qualifications that align with the job description.
- Keep it short – Be straight to the point and concise. Aim for a maximum of one page or five paragraphs. Each sentence you include should include why you are the ideal candidate. Avoid using filler sentences or sharing unnecessary information. Instead, focus on your qualifications and professional strengths.
- Don’t repeat your resume – Try going beyond your resume. Expand on examples of your experience and accomplishments. Also, provide details on things you only mention briefly in your resume. These may be volunteering, non-traditional professional experience, or similar. Your cover letter should supplement and enforce your resume, not repeat it.
- Don’t get off-track – Your main aim is to prove that you are the perfect fit for the job. Avoid going off-topic and talking about things not related to the position. Irrelevant and lengthy sentences will only put the reader off.
Even if the recruiter does not read your cover letter, it still better to include one in your application. At the very least, it will show your interest and ability to put in the extra work. If you can and have the time, then definitely include it in your applications. This will set you apart from the rest of the applicants, and give you a chance to make the best first impression.