Cover letters – what’s the point?

Why do they want a cover letter?Robert asked:

“I don’t understand why companies require a cover letter in addition to an application??? If I submit a resume with my employment, education, personal information, qualifications and references, why must I reiterate everything? A simple "See Resume" comment should be adequate.”

You're right - it is a complete waste of time. Not because cover letters themselves are useless, but because by repeating the same information in your cover letter that is contained in your application or resume, you’re missing out on a critical opportunity to sell yourself.

Why are cover letters important?

By the time someone reads your cover letter, they already know you’re qualified and might make a good hire. After reviewing applications or resumes, the recruiter or hiring manager will read all the qualified applicants’ cover letters to help them decide who to call for interviews. If you haven’t included a cover letter, this is where you lose the chance to land the interview. If you’ve written a great one, this is where you might score yourself a call from the employer.

Who sees my cover letter?

There’s no way to know who will read your cover letter. It might be the hiring manager, those who interview you, or the person who would be managing you. In smaller companies, the CEO or president may also wind up reading it over. Be smart with this opportunity to impress them.

Want to write a cover letter that gets noticed? Read on!

Cover letter example

Below is my original cover letter to Snagajob, along with notes explaining my tactics.

(Click to view larger version.)

Click for larger version

If your application has been taken into serious consideration, a cover letter can be the difference between you or another candidate getting called for an interview (really, I asked our one of our recruiters). View it as an opportunity to stand out from other applicants.

Show the employer you’ve researched the company

Why did I mention things like Office Olympics, our mutual love of the color orange an other facts that seem useless? I wasn’t wasting space, I was telling whoever read this cover letter, “Hey, I’ve already checked you out, and I think you rock!” Share facts that show them you are paying close attention to what you've applied for and demonstrate you want this specific job.

Be flexible

You’ll notice I applied for a “Senior Marketing Analyst” position. I didn’t get it, but I love the job they did offer me. Keep an open mind, and don’t pass up opportunities simply because they weren’t what you set your sights on.

Still wondering how to make sure your cover letter covers the basics? Check out the 5 things every cover letter needs to have.


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