My clients often ask me if they really need to write a cover letter to accompany their resumes. Even though we live in the era of Applicant Tracking Systems, my answer is 100% YES. You should ALWAYS include a CUSTOMIZED cover letter with every resume you send during your job search, even if it’s not required. Here are five reasons why.
1. Boosts Your Resume
Next to a customized resume, a cover letter is the BEST strategy you can use to boost your resume's impact. Human Resources managers tend to pay more attention to applicants who send their resumes with a personalized letter. A recent survey found the 74% of HR pros think cover letters are “essential” in making hiring decisions, and 7 in 10 recruiters expect to see one even if it’s marked “optional” in the job listing. A well-written cover letter can increase the chances of your background being reviewed by a hiring manager.
2. Gets Your Resume in Front of Hiring Managers
Over the years, I’ve observed just how targeted cover letters improve a candidate’s chances of reaching hiring managers. Not only does it provide you the opportunity to showcase your writing skills, but it gives you the chance to highlight why your experience and skills are a great fit for the job. Overall, including a letter with your application packet significantly improves the probability you will progress to the next step of the hiring process.
3. Sets Yourself Apart from the Competition
Despite HR pros indicating their preference for cover letters, surprisingly less than 40% of applicants attach one. This is a big mistake because it's likely these resumes get pushed to the bottom of the pile. Simply including a cover letter in itself can set you apart from the competition, but did you know you can also strategically use one to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and job?
When writing your cover letter, first do a deep dive into the job description and then research the company’s mission and vision. When researching, ask yourself, "What need does this job description address? What is the pain point the company is trying to solve with this hire?" Once you have figured this out, create a cover letter that addresses why you are the perfect person to fill this need and why the company is of interest to you.
4. Shows Your Personality
Use your letter to highlight your unique skills and personality. Many hiring managers seek candidates who are a good fit for their culture and, by weaving in your personal attributes and qualities, you can show them how well you would assimilate. Don't be afraid to use words that express your passion for the role. If you are excited about doing something listed in the job description, don't hesitate to say so.
5. Demonstrate Why You Want the Job
Taking the time to craft a cover letter shows an employer you are serious about wanting THIS particular job and not just any job. It’s also the first step in building a professional relationship with them. Through your writing, you can demonstrate why you want the job and how you feel you connect with the organization.
I always recommend my clients have a basic cover letter written that can be customized to each employer they apply to during the job hunt because hiring managers will give priority to candidates who make an effort to write one. Not doing so can lead to missing out on an opportunity to set yourself apart in a highly competitive job market.