June 16, 2017
The first thing you should do is determine if you need a cover letter. If the company specifically requests one or if the job you are applying for requires frequent written communication, such as a job in marketing, communications, advertising, or the legal field, then you should definitely write a cover letter. Employers will also expect cover letters if you are applying for a high-level position. For the most part, if a cover letter is not requested or related to your field, then it isn’t necessary. However, submitting one can’t hurt your chances; the worst thing that could happen is the hiring manager just doesn’t have time to read it. Steve, a hiring expert from Caterpillar, explains that “In almost all cases, you are applying for positions electronically now and most of the time, the cover letter is merely an afterthought for a recruiter or hiring manager.” 1
If you do decide to include a cover letter, the next step is deciding what information to include. Ashley, a hiring expert from Cardinal Health, recommends that you “keep it brief and to the point. Use it as an opportunity to elaborate on your experiences and strengths that maybe weren't highlighted as thoroughly in your resume. You should highlight the skills that most align with the position and company you are applying to, so it is not uncommon for candidates to have multiple versions of a cover letter.” 2
Start your cover letter by expressing your strong interest in the company and conveying that you are excited about the opportunity. Next, show that you’ve done your homework and have some basic knowledge of the company by adding specific details about their company and the position that you’re applying for. The last thing your cover letter should include is something that indicates you would like to discuss the opportunity further and that you are willing to provide more information if necessary.
Allegra, a hiring expert from Cigna, provides this advice: “A cover letter provides you with 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 company.” 3
While there is not a black and white answer when deciding whether or not to write a cover letter, hopefully these tips will help you make the best decision for the job you’re applying for. If you are still unsure, err on the side of caution and include one! It is always best to be over prepared than underprepared, and you don’t want to be disqualified from an interview because you didn’t include a cover letter. This short document may be what makes you stand out from all the other applicants and get the interview!