A cover letter typically accompanies each resume you send out. Employers use cover letters to shortlist applicants for available jobs and to determine which candidates they would like to interview. In cover letter you provide additional information on your skills and experience. The letter provides detailed information on why you are qualified for the job you are applying.
Types of Cover Letters
There are three general types of cover letters. Choose a type of letter that matches your reason for writing.
- The application letter which responds to a known job opening ,
- The prospecting letter which inquires about possible positions ,
- The networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job search.
Cover Letter Contents
A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences. Determine relevance by carefully reading the job description, evaluating the skills required and matching them to your own skills. Think of examples where you applied those skills, and how you would be effective in the position available.
What to Leave off Your Cover Letter
The letter is about your qualifications for the job, not about you personally. There is no need to share any personal information about yourself or your family in it. If you don’t have all the qualifications the employer is seeking, don’t mention it. Instead, focus on the credentials you have that are a match. Don’t mention salary unless the company asks. If you have questions about the job, the salary, the schedule, or the benefits, it’s not appropriate to mention them in the letter.
One thing that’s very important is to not write too much. Keep your letter focused, concise, and a few paragraphs in length. If you write too much, it’s probably not going to be read.
Each cover letter you write should be customized to include:
- Which job you’re applying for (include the job title in your opening paragraph)
- How you learned about the job (and a referral if you have one).
- Why you are qualified for the job (be specific).
- What you have to offer the employer and why you want to work at this specific company (match your skills to the job description, and read up on the organization’s mission, values and goals to mention in your letter).
- Thank you for being considered for the job.
Well-written cover letter will help get your application noticed and help you secure an interview. Take the time to personalize it so it shows the employer why you’re a solid candidate for the job.
Why it Makes Sense to Write a Cover Letter
If you’re serious about landing the job, a well-written cover letter gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate. A cover letter also affords you the opportunity to highlight your strongest qualifications.
An effective, customized cover letter will also make it clear that you are highly interested in the job. That’s because it shows the hiring manager that you want the job enough to take the time to go the extra distance.
A cover letter also gives you an opportunity to include details that your resume does not contain. For example, if you are applying from a distance, your cover letter will enable you to present a rationale for relocation and to mention that you will be in the area shortly for a possible interview.
A cover letter is also an ideal place to provide specific examples that prove you have the skills and experience listed on your resume.
Additionally, employers often expect to receive cover letters even though they did not stipulate the need for a cover letter in their job advertisements. Candidates who don’t take the time to compose a letter are often viewed as less motivated for the job.
In many cases, employers won’t even look at a job application that doesn’t contain a cover letter or letter of interest.
When Not to Include a Cover Letter
No letter is much better than a poorly written one. A well-composed cover letter serves as a sample of your writing ability but, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don’t have time to write a well-crafted cover letter that pitches your skills and positions you for the job, forego the effort.
Likewise, if the job application instructs that you should not include a cover letter, then it’s definitely best to follow directions so as not to annoy your potential employer.
Also, if the company asks you to submit your application through an online platform, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter, don’t worry about it.