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 an cover letter attached to them. Do not to make this mistake!
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. 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 purposes of a cover letter include introducing yourself, adding further value to your resume, demonstrating your interest in the position, drawing attention to your resume, 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.
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.
So, what is a cover letter? It's 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. 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.