Do I have to include a cover letter along with my resume? Do people even read cover letters these days? Can’t they just tell it from my resume? What do I put in my cover letter anyway? These are the typical questions I get asked a lot from job applicants with multiple backgrounds.
My answer is simple. You don’t have to have a cover letter, but it is a good idea to include one. Some people will read it, some won’t – it really depends on how well you write it. And yes, your resume may be enough to show your skills and qualifications. Including a cover letter will give you the extra credibility and a chance to stand out from the crowd and impress them. Now, let’s look at some dos and don’ts about cover letters.
Do create your own content each time
There are plenty of templates you can find online. This may look like a quick solution and the answer to your cover letter problem. After all, it is written out for you already. All you have to do is change the name of the company and the job title. However, you are missing the whole point. First of all, people can tell when something is not genuinely written. When your cover letter lacks personality or any kind of personal input, it sounds boring and that’s probably why people don’t read it. There is no way for them to get to know you, what you’re looking for or why should they even consider you.
Don’tmake it all about yourself
This mistake is very common. Many cover letters I see talk on and on about the applicant, how great he/she is, their experience and qualifications, sometimes without even mentioning the role or the company itself. This typically makes the reader feel less important and start wondering if perhaps you are overqualified for the role and if the company can even accommodate someone like you. If you don’t mention anything about your career goals or values and how they are aligned with company values, they start wondering if perhaps you’re just looking for any job that will pay your bills. It is very important to tell them why you’re applying to their particular company, not only does it show your specific interest in them, it also tells them you did your diligent research about the company and you are not just blindly applying anywhere and everywhere.
Don’tmake it too long
Most people have a very short attention span when they read your resume or cover letter. They have tons of other applicants to review and all they have is a few seconds to simply skim through your materials. When people see letters, messages or emails that are too long, they typically don’t read them. Grab their attention quickly by only mentioning relevant points. Keep it short and simple. For a typical cover letter, half a page is plenty, three to four paragraphs is more than enough.
Do have a call to action at the end
Some cover letters I see simply end with “Thank you for your time and consideration” assuming the hiring manager knows what to do and will contact you if they feel like it. It is proven to be much more effective to actually invite them for an interview in your last paragraph of the cover letter. People respond to an invitation; it shows you are proactive and interested. End with something like, “I would love to talk to you more about this opportunity, feel free to call me for an interview at [insert your phone number even if you think they already have it from your resume].” Then you can thank them for their time and consideration.
Bottom line – including a cover letter won’t hurt your chance, but you may miss out if you don’t. Even in the worst-case scenario, if you add a robotic, boring generically written cover letter, your chances at landing an interview are slightly higher than just submitting your resume alone.