Do I Need a Cover Letter? 4 Possible Reasons (With Tips)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated November 21, 2022
Published November 5, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Cover letters are brief documents that candidates usually submit with their resumes when applying for jobs. While cover letters are a common part of an application, there may be times the hiring manager doesn't request one. Exploring the answers to the question "Do I need a cover letter?" can help you understand the appropriate time to include one in your job application. In this article, we discuss four reasons you may need a cover letter, explore when not to include one, provide tips for writing a cover letter, and identify details to include in yours.
Answers to the question "Do I need a cover letter?"
If you find yourself wondering "Do I need a cover letter?", here are four reasons you may want to include one:
1. To include extra information
The structure of a resume limits the information you can include. Your cover letter is the perfect place to add extra information. For example, if you live in a different city from the work site, you can use your cover letter to address that concern.
Cover letters are also great for providing additional details on your qualifications. A cover letter allows you to provide more insight into how your skills benefited your previous employers and how you can apply them to the new role.
2. To explain a gap
A resume gap is a period on your resume where you were not engaged in formal employment or training or education. Hiring managers sometimes question resume gaps because they are concerned that gaps may be a sign your skills have waned. Leaving a resume gap without an explanation may hinder your chances of success. Explaining a resume gap in your resume may be too complicated, so the best option is to use your cover letter. When explaining your resume gaps, be honest and specific about the circumstances. Also, if possible, try to highlight any skills you developed during those periods.
3. When the hiring manager requests one
In many job applications, the hiring manager expressly requests a cover letter. For example, the hiring manager may request a cover letter to evaluate your writing skills, gain more insight into your personality, or determine why you're interested in their company. If the hiring manager requests a cover letter, including one will improve your chances of success. Be sure to review the job posting to see if there are any instructions relating to the cover letter's length, format, or content. If there are none, you may write your cover letter using standard guidelines.
4. When approaching the company
You may approach a company by sending an email or going in person to request employment. In both cases, it's best to have a cover letter ready to share. Since most organizations request cover letters when recruiting, you can present yourself as more prepared.
Presenting a cover letter demonstrates your professionalism and seriousness. It allows you to discuss your interest in the company, which can help you secure the job. If you're sending your cover letter in an email, remember to add a note saying you have attached a file. You can follow up at reasonable intervals to ensure the recipients received your email.
When not to include a cover letter
Here are some situations when it may be best to avoid including a cover letter:
When the hiring manager specifies not to send one
If the hiring manager expressly prohibits a cover letter, it's a good idea not to include one. Follow the hiring manager's instructions closely, as this can demonstrate your attention to detail. Review the job description carefully to confirm instructions relating to other parts of the hiring process.
When you have limited time
Writing a good cover letter requires some time, as it involves research, writing, and editing. For this reason, it's best to start writing your cover letter ahead of your application's due date. If you're in a situation where you don't have the time to write a good cover letter, it may be best not to include one. Except when the hiring manager specifically requests a cover letter, they may be happy to review just your resume or portfolio.
When there's no way to include one
While many organizations require candidates to apply via email, some use online application forms. If the form doesn't include a space for a cover letter, that may signify that including one is not essential. You can ask the hiring manager to confirm if you have their contact details and you've already written a cover letter. Be sure not to upload a cover letter in spaces meant for other documents, such as a resume or a recommendation letter. Attaching your documents or typing your letter in the allocated spaces makes your application look more organized and demonstrates that you've understood their requests.
Tips for writing a cover letter
Here are some tips you can consider for writing an impressive cover letter:
Review the job description
The job description is a document containing the required qualifications of a role and other information relevant to the application process. Reviewing the job description before writing your cover letter can help you determine which of your skills to prioritize. In addition, when reviewing the job description, note recurring keywords that the hiring manager uses. Strategically including these keywords in your cover letter can help you pass through applicant tracking systems and impress the hiring manager.
Relate your qualifications to the role
While the hiring manager may find a description of your qualifications interesting, relating them to the role can help you secure the job. Remember that the hiring manager is protecting the interests of the company, so showing how you can further those interests can give you an advantage. To do this effectively, it's important you research the company beforehand. You can research a company through its website, social media pages, publications, and employees. By leveraging information from these sources, you can determine the organization's major issues and show how your skills can help them.
Keep the letter within one page
Hiring managers usually review hundreds or thousands of applications for a single role, so they're unlikely to spend much time on each one. By keeping your cover letter short, you increase the chances of the hiring manager reading it. Hiring managers usually specify the length of the cover letter candidates can submit, and you can typically include 500 words on one page. You can keep your cover letter brief by focusing on your most impressive qualifications.
Related: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
Elaborate on your resume
The purpose of your cover letter is to support your resume, so avoid repeating the same things in both documents. To write a good cover letter, you can select your most impressive qualifications and provide additional information on them. For instance, you can give practical examples of applying your skills and the results you achieved. Remember to quantify your achievements using measurable terms like figures, averages, and percentages.
Make it personal
Your cover letter is a great opportunity to demonstrate your personality and convince the hiring manager you're a good fit for their company. While the cover letter is a formal document, you can make it more personal by telling a story. You can do this by using examples and including details about your motivations, feelings, and personality. Ensure you include a personal reason when discussing your interest in the company.
Submitting a well-written cover letter communicates diligence and professionalism. It makes your cover letter easier to read and understand. When writing a cover letter, ensure you use a legible font style and size. You may set the text as justified to make it appear more organized. After that, ensure you review it to identify and correct any grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors. You may also ask friends and family for a second opinion.
What to include in a cover letter
Here are some relevant details to include when writing an effective cover letter:
Every job requires a set of technical and soft skills to perform the tasks and responsibilities of the role. Demonstrating these skills on your cover letter is a great way to express your competence to the hiring manager. When including your skills, ensure you prioritize your skills that are most relevant to the role.
When writing a cover letter, it's essential you elaborate on the qualifications in your resume. Because of the one-page limitation, it's best to pick two or three of your most valuable qualifications to discuss. This can include your education or work experience.
Hiring managers usually want to know why candidates want to work for their company. By evaluating your answer, they can determine if you're a good fit for the company's culture. To secure the job, you can provide a genuine and personal reason. If you're looking for inspiration, consider speaking to the company's employees or reviewing the company's website and publications. Read the company mission and vision statement to see if their values align with yours.
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