These days there are a vocal minority of job applicants and HR professionals who no longer see any real value to cover letters. They often cite the fact that hiring managers no longer have any time to read cover letters and that the practice of writing these is outdated and archaic.
While this view is certainly legitimate in a few contexts, there is still plenty of value in including a cover letter with your resume — provided that you write them with a purpose in mind.
Here are some reasons you should consider including a cover letter:
1.) They demonstrate you understand the job
Cover letters can show that you understand the requirements of the job listing and the company’s culture as well.
2.) They show you are willing to put in the time
While some HR managers don’t bother to read cover letters, most will definitely understand that the fact one exists in the first place shows that you are willing to exert more than the minimum required effort.
3.) They are an opportunity to humanize you
To be completely blunt, hiring managers will rarely see the human being behind the job application. They may receive dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of applications a week, and it’s understandable they no longer have the time to see the people who wrote each resume.
But well-written cover letters can help offset this and give a human aspect to your application that can make you more likable and hireable. Just make sure that you understand what the hiring manager is looking for and write accordingly.
Tips for winning cover letters
1.) Keep it short
Cover letters are kind of like an elevator pitch in written form. For those that don’t know, an elevator pitch is a kind of sales pitch where you are able to efficiently deliver the benefits of a product or service in the time it takes to ride an elevator — the idea being that if you’re stuck in an elevator with someone busy, this may be the only time you have to say anything to them.
Job applicants face a similar dilemma. They have be able to convince the business owner or hiring manager of the benefits of hiring them within a few seconds of them receiving a resume. Of course, resume senders are in a quandary, as a cover letter isn’t always necessary but will always increase the number of words the hiring manager has to read. This means that if you do choose to include a cover letter, you have to keep it short and sweet.
2.) Make it specific to the job opening
Like your resume, your cover letter has to specially-made for the opening if you want it to be worth sending. This can demonstrate that you understand the job opening better than the other applicants.
3.) Include specific details about the job
Do some research and include some details about the job that goes beyond what was written on the job listing. If you can include the hiring manager’s name or an important project that the company has recently worked on, that can show that you’re someone who does their due diligence.
4.) Don’t repeat your resume
Perhaps the biggest reason a lot of HR managers and applicants dislike cover letters is the fact that they are often written in an ineffective, nonsensical way. In most cases, there’s no sense in repeating info that is already on the resume. Instead, use the cover letter to give a very brief overview of benefits you can offer your prospective employer.
5.) Templates are fine
Don’t be afraid to use cover letter templates. Not everyone valuable to a company will have good writing skills. There’s no reason to punish yourself by writing a cover letter from scratch if you can’t manage it. Just make sure to tweak the template to fit your unique situation.
6.) Make sure to proofread them!
Spelling and grammatical errors don’t always mean anything. But they can be a turn-off for employers regardless. Proofread your cover letter at least twice before you send it over. If you have a friend or a relative who has good copywriting or editing skills, you may want to have them look it over before you send it.
If you’re going to write a cover letter, be sure to invest the time in it so that it means something for you and your prospective employer. Don’t just write one because that’s what you’re “supposed to do”. That way, your cover letter has the potential to make your application truly stand out from the rest of the pile — in the best way possible.
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