Taking the time to write a cover letter when applying for a job can put you a step ahead of other candidates seeking the same position. While not all companies require you to include a cover letter with your application, cover letters allow you to express yourself on a more personal level than a resume. Here you’ll get the inside scoop on when to provide a cover letter, using a similar cover letter for multiple applications, and how to address the recipient.
When to provide a cover letter
Even if the job you are applying for doesn’t require you to provide a cover letter, there are times when sending one could benefit your chances of getting hired.
Ashlyn, Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, says, “I recommend that you submit a cover letter if the employer specifically asks for it, if you are applying to a position where written communication is used frequently and seen by the public (marketing, communications, advertising, legal, etc.), or if you are making a career change. Also, cover letters are often expected for applicants applying to high-level positions. If you do submit a cover letter, be sure to discuss the company, its values, how you would be a good fit for the organization, and how you can contribute to the overall goal.” More from Ashlyn
Allegra, Hiring Expert at Cigna, sees this differently, “You should always include a cover letter. Unlike your resume, your cover letter rounds out who you are, what you're passionate about, and why you are the best person for the job. Additionally, you can leverage your cover letter to discuss any gaps between your background and what the company listed in the job posting. A cover letter provides you with the perfect opportunity to stand out from other candidates and distinguish yourself as the top choice. Focus on the value you bring to the role and the company, and most importantly, make sure that your cover letters are personalized for every role and company.” More from Allegra
Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, shares her perspective saying, “If recruiters are receiving hundreds of applications for a position, they don't always have time to read through cover letters. With that being said, it definitely doesn't hurt to include a cover letter. If you choose to send in a cover letter with your application, I would keep it brief and to the point. Use it as an opportunity to elaborate on your experiences and strengths that maybe weren't highlighted thoroughly in your resume. You should highlight the skills that most align with the position and company you are applying to, so it’s not uncommon for candidates to have multiple versions of a cover letter.” More from Ashley
Using a similar cover letter for multiple applications
If you think of a cover letter as an actual letter you write to someone, you would modify the letter depending on the people you chose to receive it. The same goes for when you are sending out cover letters to multiple positions. The cover letter should change to match the position you are applying for.
Mike, Hiring Expert at Avery Dennison Corporation, says, “I don't see any issues with submitting a slightly modified cover letter for each role you apply for within the same company. The hiring team (aside from the recruiter) likely only has access to the documents you submitted for their particular position, so it shouldn't be an issue. However, if you are going to use the same template, make sure the cover letter is adjusted for each job that you are applying for.” More from Mike
Sylvia, Hiring Expert at HP Enterprise, says, “I would modify it to address the needs of the position and how you will complement the team. Having the same introduction as to why you want to work for the company is acceptable. Tailor your cover letters for the roles you really want a bit more to emphasize your abilities.” More from Sylvia
How to address a cover letter
As with any letter, making sure you address your cover letter to the person that will be reading it is very important. However, if you don’t have their name, don’t worry, there are plenty of appropriate alternatives.
Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, says, “A cover letter does not need to be addressed to a specific person unless you know who the recruiter or hiring manager is. It is acceptable (and common) to address your cover letter, ‘To Whom it May Concern’. I have also seen candidates address to ‘Recruiter’, ‘Talent Acquisition’, or ‘Hiring Manager.’ These are all acceptable as well.” More from Ashley
Ashlyn, Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, says, “It's fine to address your cover letter ‘To Whom It May Concern’, ‘Hiring Team’, or ‘HR Team.’” As long as you address your cover letter to the name of the hiring manager, or a title of someone who could hire you, that will suffice. Holly, Hiring Expert at Daikin, agrees, saying, “I think a safe bet would be ‘Dear Hiring Manager.’” More from Ashlyn
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Going the extra mile to write a cover letter can show a potential employer how serious you are about your application. Being intentional with not only providing a cover letter but how you tailor it to each position and address its recipient will present you as a candidate worth taking a look at. If you have any specific questions about cover letters or any other part of your job search, feel free to ask our experts!