Should you always send a cover letter?
Do you always have to submit a cover letter, or can you skip it? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Cover letters could give you an advantage.
You found an exciting new job posting and are getting ready to submit your resume, but what about a cover letter? Is it always necessary to spend time writing a cover letter, or are there times you can get away without one? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Pro: Cover letters can set you apart
“Skip the cover letter, and you miss out on an opportunity to sell yourself,” says Evelyn Salvador, author of Step-by-Step Cover Letters: Build a Cover Letter in 10 Easy Steps Using Personal Branding and principal of Creative Image Builders, a resume-development and career-coaching firm in Coram, New York.
Sending a cover letter along with a resume helps you build your brand the same way an advertising company promotes a product’s brand. “A well-defined brand wins interviews, maximizes salary potential and puts job seekers in the top 2 percent of candidates considered for positions,” Salvador says.
Think of your cover letter as another tool in your job search arsenal, says Betty Corrado, owner of career-coaching and resume-writing firm Career Authenticity in Cos Cob, Connecticut. “The cover letter is a key part of your marketing package,” she says. “Use it as an opportunity to convey your brand and value proposition.”
Pro: Cover letters let you reveal your personality and build rapport
A resume tends to be fact-based and somewhat formal, but a cover letter can be infused with personality. “Don’t be afraid to inject personal notes about interests or philosophies that may help employers determine if you will fit into their culture,” says Roleta Fowler Vasquez, professional resume writer and owner of Wordbusters in Fillmore, California. To increase the “wow” factor of their cover letters, she encourages applicants to add a few standout accomplishments that don’t appear on the resume.
Laila Atallah, a Seattle career counselor and owner of Career Counseling with a Twist, agrees that a cover letter can be more revealing than a resume. “The best cover letters are infused with energy, personality and details about the applicant’s skills and achievements,” she says. “I get a sense of the person and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s easier for me to picture them in their next job.”
Job seekers often make the mistake of sending a resume without a cover letter, says Ann Baehr, president of Best Resumes of New York in East Islip, New York. “This is a missed opportunity to establish rapport with employers and provide a sense of who they are beyond their work experience,” she says.
Thinking about skipping the cover letter when applying for an internal position? Don't. Use the cover letter to show how well you understand your employer’s mission and remind management of how much you have already accomplished.
Include a cover letter even if a colleague is submitting your resume for you. The letter is a chance to introduce yourself and mention your contact as a reminder that you are a referral. This is what a cover letter should include, should you decide to send one.
Pro: Cover letters let you tell a story
The cover letter can include information that would be out of place on the resume. “Job seekers can include the name of a mutual contact or referral, state how they would benefit the employer if hired and explain tricky situations such as changing careers, relocating, returning to the workforce and so on,” Baehr says.
Atallah encourages job seekers to learn about the requirements of the job opening and use the cover letter to express how and why they are uniquely qualified. “Use your cover letter to tell a story,” she says. “Studies show that stories are memorable and engaging, and cover letters are a perfect vehicle for expressing your successes in a more storylike format.”
When not to send a cover letter
Given all the reasons to send a cover letter, is it ever a good idea not to? “If the application instructions expressly say not to include a cover letter, or if an online application offers no opportunity, then you can forego the cover letter in these cases,” Atallah says.
Vasquez agrees that you should not send a cover letter when the employer specifically says not to. “This may be a test of your ability to follow directions,” she says.
What if you think the cover letter won’t be read? Corrado says that while some hiring managers say they don’t read cover letters, those who do may dismiss your application if you don’t send one. “Why take this chance when you need every possible advantage in this job market?” she asks.
While writing cover letters is time-consuming, the consensus is that the effort could give you an edge and help you land more interviews.
Looking for more ways you can stand out in your job search? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume and cover letter. Recruiters search Monster every day looking for exceptional candidates just like you.
Cover letter sample in response to a Monster job posting
You see a job on Monster but are unsure how the cover letter you send should read. Get answers here.
If you see a job posting online and it sounds exquisitely suited to you, you probably feel compelled to submit not only your resume but a customized cover letter as well. But job seekers often struggle with constructing an effective cover letter. View our sample cover letter below:
Dear (insert name or "Hiring Manager" if name is unknown):
Your advertisement on Monster for a (insert job title) fits my experience and qualifications perfectly, and I am writing to express my interest in and enthusiasm for the position. As an accomplished sales leader, I have achieved seven-figure revenue growth, international market penetration and successful product launches for leading global corporations during my career.
In addition to my desire to join your team, you will find I am a dedicated and driven professional whose recent accomplishments include:
- An increase of international sales from 1 percent of the company's total revenue to 75 percent, capturing more than half of the entire European market and one-third of the Latin American market within two years.
- Dramatic expansion of customer base, leading to seven-figure revenue growth rates that far exceed the pace of larger, more established competitors.
- Development of a 75-member dealer network across 30 countries in six continents.
- Attainment of 100 percent customer retention rate through expert relationship-building skills and a commitment to a solution-focused, service-first sales approach.
- Launch of a new London office, expected to double sales revenue by 2012.
- Introduction of three innovative product lines, following comprehensive market research and competitive-intelligence gathering.
Your software products are truly on the cutting edge of technology -- you offer products that can change the way a company conducts business on the Internet. I am excited by this technology and would be able to translate this excitement to a business benefit for your current and future clients. If you agree that my qualifications are a close fit to your needs, I would be delighted to meet with you personally to discuss strategies for expanding (name of company's) market presence.
I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (phone number) or via email at (email address). I look forward to our conversation.