Cover Letters: Why They're So Important

Cover letter
Whenever I used to apply for jobs that required a cover letter, I would always cringe. My thoughts were, 'why do they need a cover letter if they're also looking at my resume?'

Well, my fellow young adults, cover letters are often more important than you might think.

For background on what a resume is and my tips on how to write one, check out that article first. We're going to jump straight into cover letters, assuming that your resume is already ready-to-go!

What purpose do cover letters serve?

First, let's start by imagining ourselves as a potential employer or recruiter. When they post a new job opening, they may receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds to, in the case of some companies, thousands of resumes from job seekers.

Now, when your job is to sift through possibly thousands of resumes or CVs, they're going to be looking for anything that stands out (and I'm not talking pink font and glitter hearts).

So what purpose does a cover letter serve? Well, just that - to set you apart from other applicants.

How does it accomplish this? On to the next section...

How do cover letters and resumes differ?

Both documents are meant to serve the same purpose: to share information about yourself with recruiters or potential employers in the hopes of getting the posted job offer.

The ways in that they differ focus mainly in how the two documents convey your information.

Where the resume is very factual and has your experience bullet-pointed and straightforward, the cover letter is meant to allow your personality to show and for you to express your interest in the job being offered.

You should use the cover letter to, basically, brag about yourself but also to tell the reader why you should get the job that you are applying for. 

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What makes you different from the other job applicants?
  • Why do you want to work for that company?
  • Have you always wanted that position?
  • Why are you the best person for the job?
  • What skills do you have that fit the job position?

So now that you know the purpose of a cover letter and how it's different from your resume, let's go over how to write one.

How do I write my cover letter?

There is a basic "template" that you can follow when writing your cover letter. Of course, feel free to personalize it and work with the different sections to make it better reflect yourself.
  1. Greeting
    • Address the person who will be reading your cover letter and resume.
    • This information is usually found on the job offer page.
    • If you are unsure or no information is indicated, you can just include the company's name and "to whom it may concern."
  2. Introduction
    • Use this space to introduce yourself.
    • Explain who you are and why your skills make you a great fit for the position.
    • Feel free to explain here why you're so interested in the job offer (if you have a reason - don't make anything up).
  3. Skills/Experience
    • Delve a little deeper into your skills and experience.
    • Remember to keep this short and sweet and to only mention relevant information.
    • Relate the requirements for the position to your own experience.
  4. Closing
    • Write a sentence or two summarizing your interest and experience in regards to the position.
    • You can write a line mentioning that you would be happy to discuss any questions, as needed.
    • Finally, make sure to include your contact information, including: your name, e-mail address, phone number and/or address.
I will highlight one of the points above for you, as an important note: be sure to keep all of the information in your cover letter relevant to the position to which you are applying.

Your cover letter should be a template, in that it has standard information, but requires customization for each application that you submit.

Final Notes

If you have the opportunity to include a cover letter with your resume for a job application, take it! For you, it may seem unnecessary or redundant, but it is important and can make a difference. Set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd and don't be shy in selling your abilities.

Want help with your cover letter or resume? Feel free to shoot me a line either via email or on Twitter; all information listed under Contact above.

Thank you and good luck, job hunters!


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