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 Should You Write a Cover Letter?

should you write a cover letterApplying for a position? Everyone, including you, will submit a resume. This is the first screening tool (outside of networking) that an employer will review. So, is it necessary to write a cover letter? Definitely.

First, your cover letter might actually be a well-written email you submit directly to the hiring manager. When you find your dream position, you’ll want to let the hiring manager know why this is your dream position and why you are a good fit. This is the primary purpose of your cover letter.

Second, once a hiring manager has narrowed down the list of applicants, your cover letter may be the factor that singles you out amongst other candidates. Your cover letter should go above and beyond your resume. What makes you uniquely qualified for this position? Why do you want to work for this particular company and so forth.

Your cover letter is also an opportunity to address any questions or concerns an employer may have when reading your resume. Say you left an industry and now want to return. Address your reasons in your cover letter. Address employment gaps, job hopping, or willingness to relocate. You get the idea.

Write a Strong Cover Letter

So yes, you should write a cover letter. However, make sure that it is a strong cover letter tailored specifically to the position that you applying. The purpose of your cover letter is to express why you want the position. Why you are uniquely qualified. So, if you send a generic cover letter it actually takes away from your candidacy. It sends the impression that this job wasn’t important enough to you to customize your cover letter. Generic cover letters also send the impression that you aren’t detailed oriented and communicate to the employer how might actually perform your job – with minimal effort. Please be sure to edit and check spelling and grammatical errors before you submit your cover letter.

Cover Letter Layout & What to Include

Your cover letter could be an email that you submit directly to a hiring manager. Your email may be less formal than a traditional letter that you attach with your resume. If you do send an email, include the position you are applying for in the subject line of the email.

Identify the hiring manager and send your email directly to that person. If you do have a contact person, include their name in the addressee part of a formal cover letter.

A formal cover letter that is attached to your resume should include:

  • Your contact information and the employer’s contact information like a traditional business letter.
  • Space between sections. Single space each paragraph.
  • Save the file with your name and send it as an attachment with your resume.
  • There are several ways to write a cover letter. One format is to write 3-5 paragraphs about what qualifies you for the position that you are applying. This is a standard cover letter format.
  • You can consider using a table format cover letter or T format. In the left column include the company’s requirements and in the right column list your qualifications. This highlights your qualifications as they pertain specifically to the position.
  • This is an excellent way of showing how well you are qualified for a position. An employer or recruiter is likely to spend seconds reviewing your resume and cover letter. This format allows a recruiter to scan your qualifications quickly to see whether you should be contacted for an interview. You are basically showing them, in a few seconds flat, how you meet all the criteria for the position.
  • Another format is to show value proposition – what you will do once in the position. This helps the employer visualize you as an effective employee. Mention the specific position you are applying for in the first paragraph.
  • Describe your interest and qualifications in the middle paragraph(s).
  • Conclude with your contact information and how you may follow up.

Here is a standard cover letter example:

Download (PDF, 70KB)

Here is a T format cover letter example:

Download (PDF, 122KB)

For additional guidance with career direction and job search, work with a career counselor.