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Do I Need a Cover Letter?

by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, Freelance Writer on January 20th, 2017

In a typical day, I will get several emails via my website and respond to the potential clients with varying package offerings. My basic package is a resume only and the second package offers a resume and cover letter. The additional offers then include LinkedIn profiles and interview coaching. One of the most common questions I receive is the following: “Which package do you think I should go with? Do I need a cover letter?” My answer is typically YES.

Here’s the reason: Even if a job opening does not REQUIRE a cover letter, I’ve never heard of anyone NOT getting hired because they went above-and-beyond and sent a cover letter. Oftentimes, an online application has an ‘additional’ file category or an ‘optional’ cover letter attachment. Why not include a cover letter and share even more of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments?

So, what’s the purpose of a cover letter? Is it a summary of the resume? When done correctly, the cover letter can further tell the story of the applicant and can discuss additional strengths that can be brought to the workplace. After being at several national resume writing conferences, I can tell you that some recruiters read the resume first and some read the cover letter first—it’s a personal preference. However, when the cover letter is read first, it can provide a great first impression and memorable statement for the candidate.

Here are my general tips for a cover letter:

#1 – Keep it concise and one-page maximum. I met with a client recently that showed me several of her old cover letters and they were all two to three pages in length. That is simply too long and the reader won’t read through the material. In addition, if you are trying to show that you are a jack-of-all-trades, you are probably showing that you are master of none.

#2 – Use bullet points. Rather than large blocks of text, use a few short paragraphs and three or four bullet points in the middle of the cover letter to attract attention. These bullet points are a quick and easy way to change information depending upon the job opportunity. Be specific and showcase several of your past accomplishments that are directly in-line with the potential job opportunity.

#3 – Address the cover letter to an actual person. Never use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” as the salutation. Do everything in your power to find out the name of the hiring director or HR professional. And, if all else fails and you are unable to find out the person’s name, then use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources Leader.” This salutation comes across as more personal and less like a form letter.

If you would like more tips on creating a cover letter that gets results, be sure to download our Cover Letter Checklist by clicking HERE!

From → Cover Letters, Resume

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