Ch. 1: What is a Cover Letter?
First impressions are important, and cover letters are used to help bridge the gap from unknown applicant to prospective hire. Although cover letters may seem like a lot of extra work when applying to a position, they're necessary to show you're serious about your job hunt. Many employers simply disqualify any applications that don’t have a cover letter attached to them. Do not to make this mistake!
Cover letters can be the difference in getting further consideration for a position, or simply being ignored. In addition, cover letters offer you an additional opportunity of explaining in more detail about how your previous work history or skill set should separate your application out from the rest.
In addition, cover letters help you explain other areas of your resume where you wish you could include more detail without taking up important resume space, or mention things you didn’t include but would be willing to explain in more detail.
Taking the shotgun approach of applying to every position you see that you may qualify for will only get you so far, and most of your applications will likely be tossed aside if you choose to not include a cover letter. When applying to positions that fit well with your qualifications and that you truly want, stand out by including a thoughtful cover letter.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a 1-page, letter-formatted document meant to convey your accomplishments, as they relate to the position you apply for. They are typically divided into 3 - 4 paragraphs, with the first paragraph explaining why you're writing and how you found out about the position.
Subsequent paragraphs are used to explain your qualifications and achievements, and to highlight situations in which you utilized your skills.
The closing paragraph is used to summarize your skills, to thank the employer for their consideration, and to ask for the opportunity to speak about the position in the future.
However, instead of asking to speak, another option is simply stating that you will be contacting them at a specific date and time in the future.
Depending on the employer and position, you'll want to include relevant content and alter your letter's overall tone to match the company's values and goals.
Here's a well-written cover letter example:
What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
The purpose of a cover letter includes introducing yourself, adding further value to your resume, demonstrating your interest in the position, drawing attention to your resume, and explaining situations - like gaps in employment, and strengthening you as a candidate for the position.
When used in conjunction with a resume, a great cover letter will give your prospective employer a broader picture of who you are and what you can do for their company.
Essentially, your cover letter is an opportunity for you to express your desire to work with the company, and express your skill and experience compatibility to set yourself apart from other candidates who are applying to the same position.
If written correctly, the cover letter can make you stand out as a candidate, making a great first impression. However, don’t stop at structure. A well-written cover letter is how to get your foot in the door; it serves as a catalyst for the employer to reach out to you and schedule an interview.
Having a clean, concise, and convincing document to support your qualifications is the first impression your future employer will have of you; make it count.
Why Do I Need a Cover Letter?
Cover letters are essential to being taken serious in the professional world. You need one because it's the first real chance you have to personalize your application and make yourself unique in the sea of job seekers gunning for the position.
Aim to put a spotlight on talents, skills, and unique experiences that the employer will find, not only valuable, but help you stand out amongst the other potential candidates.
Your goal is to sell yourself here, so don't be afraid to brag about your accomplishments. After all, we're masters of our own destinies, so you have the right to take credit for everything you've done to put yourself in the position of applying for the job in front of you.
Cover letters push you through the recruitment process, and it's the recruiter's job to eliminate candidates and narrow down the list to the most qualified and professional candidates. And, a common way recruiters disqualify job seekers is the lack of a cover letter.
Recruiters expect to see a resume accompanied by a cover letter, and if not, they’ll move on to the next candidate. A majority of recruits, roughly 60%, say that they don’t read resumes without receiving a cover letter.
Moreover, providing a cover letter during the hiring process gives you a professional look, and it puts you ahead of the other candidates that made the fatal mistake of only supplying a resume.
What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
There are several different types of cover letters that are better suited for individual situations or positions. Knowing the difference between each will let you know what you can accomplish with each one, and help you get started on crafting the right one for the position you are applying for.
1. Application Letter
The application letter is for those who would like to apply for a specific position. This is the most common cover letter people traditionally use and send out with their resumes for prospective jobs.
These cover letters tend to be very focused about highlighting your qualifications for the individual position. In these cover letters, it is best to match keywords in the cover letter with the job posting, and to drive home the points of why you would be a good fit.
Typically this is the one that most recent graduates are comfortable using, as it is the standard one college professors and teachers recommend for new positions.
2. Letter of Interest
This type of cover letter is to declare your interest for open positions at a company. This type of cover letter differs from application letters in that it isn’t for one specific position, but is a general inquiry to determine if there are any available positions to work for the prospective company.
This type of cover letter is a form of cold contact, so you are hoping to detail your cover letter in such a way that highlights your why you would be a good fit based on your skills, experience, and qualifications for other job openings available.
3. Referral Contact Letter
This form of a cover letter is great for those who were recommended to apply for a position from a point of contact to somebody close to the prospective company, or an employee within the company.
In many cases, these referrals are a great way to secure serious consideration for a prospective position, as other candidates will come off as a cold contact. One great way that individuals can receive a referral contact letter is by interacting with and meeting individuals at networking events.
This is a great way to get your foot in the door, introduce yourself, and recommend sending over your resume for future consideration. In this way, you don’t come off as an unknown, as they’ve gotten to know a little bit about you - and your referral contact letter can explain more about your credentials for a position.
Another way in which someone should use a referral contact letter is if they know someone who currently works with the company. After speaking to them about it, most often times they’ll give you permission to use them as a referral when contacting a healthcare recruiter or hiring manager about prospective openings.
This type of referral contact letter is useful for when somebody tells you to apply to a position, and you can mention their name so the healthcare recruiter or hiring manager is familiar with how you found out about the position.
4. Networking Cover Letter
This type of cover letter is one you typically send to friends, peers, coworkers, and other professionals in your industry. A networking cover letter is great for finding about potential opportunities before they open up.
In addition, using a cover letter is a great way to establish a referral network to use in the event that your peers do know of potential openings or job postings that you should be in consideration for.
5. Recruiter Cover Letters
These cover letters are designed to be sent to industry specific recruiters. Recruiters are hired by hospitals and healthcare organizations to find qualified talent for open positions, and then represent those qualified candidates to hospitals and healthcare facilities.
In the event that those candidates the healthcare recruiter represents get hired, that respective recruiter gets a certain portion of the salary from the employer.
As recruiters are in charge of helping healthcare facilities and hospitals find qualified talent, recruiters are a great way of getting your application in front of hiring managers for prospective positions.
Recruiters work hand in hand with plenty of hospitals and healthcare facilities to find talent for vacant positions, as hospitals and healthcare facilities would like to fill positions quickly and devote their valuable time and resources to other patient care endeavors.
6. Value Proposition Cover Letter
Value proposition cover letters are designed to do just what the name suggests, provide reasons for value to potential employers. So much over the cover letter is about explaining why you should be considered over other potential candidates in the screening process.
A value proposition cover letter helps you detail why you are unique in comparison to others. Not only do these cover letters serve as a way of detailing what makes you unique, you can also highlight what value you can potentially bring to the hospital or healthcare facility.
So, what is a cover letter? It is simply a 1-pg letter that accompanies your resume when submitting an application to a position. Its purpose is to make you stand out as a candidate, to give you a chance to explain any gaps in employment, and to further explain why you'd be a better choice than any of the other candidates gunning for the same job.
You need to include one with each application because, if you don't, there's good chance that your application will be thrown out as a result. In addition, it helps separate you from those candidates who aren’t dedicating the extra time on individual cover letters for each position or job category.
Failing to include a cover letter is viewed as laziness, and employers aren't searching for those people. They want the strongest, most capable person they can get to solve their problem and add value to the company moving forward.