WHEN TO INCLUDE A COVER LETTER
Photo by Josep Suria
Historically, a cover letter allowed a prospective employee to build a bridge with a potential employer. The candidate would introduce himself or herself and try to convince the employer of their motivation and qualifications so the employer would feel compelled to read their resume.
In recent years, the cover letter hasn’t been nearly as important. While some employers still require potential candidates to submit a cover letter, many employers don’t want to spend time reading yet another document to vet a candidate. Employers can learn a lot about a candidate’s qualifications, personality, and potential culture fit through their professional summary on their resume as well as online profile.
Many potential employers and recruiters admit they do not even read the cover letters they receive.
However, while the cover letter is on its way out the door, it’s not dead yet. So, you should be prepared to write cover letters, but first, check if you really need one.
When to Include a Cover Letter
You should always prepare a cover letter when one is requested, but are there other instances where it would benefit you to send a cover letter?
Cover letters offer advantages to potential employers and job candidates in some distinct situations. For example, with jobs that require writing, a cover letter is an excellent opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their writing abilities to a potential employer.
Plus, some of your actions may need an explanation, like when you are making a career change, moving to a new city, or applying for a job after a break from employment. Your cover letter is the perfect place to give context to these changes.
In addition, a company sometimes requires a cover letter as a way to narrow the field. For example, they may instruct job applications to not only send a cover letter but to include something specific in it. This weeds out candidates who don’t read instructions carefully.
While these are notable exceptions, in most cases, an e-note is sufficient to introduce yourself to a potential employer and draw their attention to your application materials.
When a Cover Letter is Not Needed
If a cover letter is not required, you can often still send one, but an e-note is an excellent alternative and a lot less work.
You can show your motivation for the position in either document, which will help you land an interview. In some cases, an e-note is the best option. For example, if you were to find out about an exciting job opportunity right before the application deadline, it would be a far better use of your time to tailor your resume, incorporating keywords from the job application and tweaking an existing e-note you have, than to write a cover letter.
There are a couple of cases in which you should NOT include a cover letter.
For example, you should not send a cover letter when the application instructions clearly say not to send one and when there is no way to upload or post one to an online application platform. When an employer specifically says not to send a cover letter, this may be a test to see if you will follow instructions.
If you want to learn how to write a great cover letter and an outstanding resume, check out our online course “How to write a job-winning resume and other application materials.”