When applying for jobs, you’ll notice that most employers ask for a resume and cover letter. These materials help employers get a sense of your background, skills, and qualifications before deciding whether they would like to pursue you as a candidate. While you may feel that your resume gives an employer or recruiter a full picture of your professional background, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to show some personality and fill in the blanks. Let’s dive into what exactly a cover letter is and why they continue to be an integral part of the recruiting process (and can be a key factor in securing your new gig!).
What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that gives employers and recruiters an overview of your professional experience in accordance with the job you’re applying for. Within a few paragraphs, you can use your cover letter to highlight specific qualifications that would make you a top candidate for the position. Typically, cover letters include any relevant job duties, skills, achievements, and qualifications you have. Depending on the role, you can use your cover letter to highlight your personality and show hiring teams that you’re a personable, capable, and qualified candidate.
Why Is a Cover Letter Important?
A cover letter is an important part of showing employers who you are as a professional. It gives you a chance to give your resume and other application materials a voice. Here are the top five reasons employers and recruiters still ask for cover letters:
1. Allows for More Information
When crafting your resume and cover letter, you should think of these as a pair rather than two separate documents. Instead of reiterating your resume, your cover letter gives you a chance to highlight specific skills and achievements within your career. You can also use your cover letter to share why you’re applying for the job and show your excitement for this opportunity. For instance, if you’re applying for a City Manager position, you can use your cover letter to share why you want to lead that particular city, how the city’s goals and values align with your own, and how you are well equipped to deal with the future challenges that organization may be facing.
2. Tailors an Application to the Job
A cover letter explains why you’re qualified for a certain position. That’s why it’s essential to tailor each cover letter to the job description. Before even writing your cover letter, carefully read through the job posting and highlight any skills or qualifications you possess. Then, you can incorporate some of this language into your cover letter to show hiring teams that you are a capable candidate and have put in the time and effort to craft a relevant cover letter rather than copying and pasting a few keywords into a cookie-cutter one.
3. Shows Communication Abilities
Virtually every job requires candidates to have strong communication skills. Being an effective communicator means that you can get your thoughts across in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Your cover letter is the perfect chance to show hiring teams that you have such skills and can convey your ideas through writing. Your cover letter should be one page long, but no longer than a page and a half. Anything longer than that, and you are going to lose your reader.
4. Gives the Opportunity to Connect
While a resume is more of a laundry list of past professional experiences, skills, and achievements, your cover letter brings life to your application. It’s your chance to connect with the reader and show them that you’re a personable candidate. Showing your competence is just one portion of your cover letter. You also want to show that you are easy to work with, have teamwork skills, and are an effective collaborator. Phrases like “I am eager for the opportunity to work for your team” or “I sincerely look forward to hearing from you” shows hiring teams that you’re interested in the role and have a professional demeanor.
5. Demonstrates Attention to Detail
From the grammar of your sentences to the formatting you use, your cover letter shows hiring teams that you’re an effective writer and can pay attention to detail. Before submitting your cover letter, carefully read through it to find any errors or typos. Even reading it out loud can help you better understand the flow of your writing. After you’re done with edits, consider having a friend or family member read through it and offer feedback.
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