Do I Need A Cover Letter?

1.       The employer specifically asked you not include one.

2.       Your ability to communicate using the written word is so poor it would do more harm than good.

3.       You don’t really want the job and can’t be bothered to make a strong application.

These are 3 great reasons not to include a cover letter with your resume when you apply for a job. As far as number 3 goes, why are you wasting any amount of energy actually applying for the job; or the time of the people at the other end who will get your resume?

I often get asked about the cover letter from the people I work with on a daily basis who are looking for employment. The questions I get asked are typically:

1.       Is it necessary?

2.       What do I say?

3.       Do they really read them?

Again I’ll comment on number 3; about half the employers read the cover letter. Unless the ad for the job specifically tells you not to write a cover letter, you’ll be left wondering if the employer you’re sending your resume to falls in the half that reads the cover letter or not. As you can’t be sure, you should include one as a general practice.

Okay number 1 reminds me of the whiny child who doesn’t want to do something and says, “Do I haveta?”  Invariably, he gets an answer from his mom or dad, “Yes you have to and you might as well do it now!” Asking if it’s necessary when referring to writing cover letters is I suppose the adult version of this childhood scene.

Actually a cover letter is not absolutely necessary; but it’s such a plus when done well, and the advantage it gives you is so big over those that don’t include one that it is in my opinion necessary. After all, it’s such a competitive market out there for employment you want every advantage you can over your competition. If they are too lazy to write one, or not proficient in writing an effective one; advantage you!

So let’s look at what you actually say in the cover letter. First off, the point of the cover letter is what? It does a few things:

1.       Introduces you to the employer

2.       Requests in writing an interview

3.       Markets you to meet their needs

4.       Demonstrates your strong interest/professionalism

5.       Sets up the resume

When you are applying for work, your cover letter should be on a single page and in the same font (I suggest Ariel size 12) as your resume. It should include your name and contact information, the date, the name of the person you are addressing, their job title and if in the job ad, include a job competition number so the receiver can quickly sort it with the right job you are applying for.

Ask for the interview right off: “I am requesting an interview for the position of….” Employers will appreciate your assertiveness and they know the purpose of your communication immediately. Don’t dance around, fumbling for every word you can think of that comes close but doesn’t actually request an interview. It’s not pushy or aggressive; it’s considerate of their time and provides direct clarity.

In your next paragraph, get to the heart of the matter; you meet their qualifications, you’d really love to do the job and you’re going to solve their problem, fill their needs, bring whatever it is they are looking for. Be sincere and honest; why are you the best fit for the job and this company? Pull in words from the job posting, and by all accounts use their language. Don’t refer to helping their clients if the word they use isn’t clients at all but rather customers. If they have ‘must haves’ in the posting, stress you have these right up front.

Reference your resume certainly and conclude your letter by again requesting an interview to best demonstrate your strong interest and suitability for the job in question. State a contact number and when you’re done don’t go all standard and type, “Yours truly”, or “Sincerely” – BORING! Be unique and sign off, “With enthusiasm,” etc. Stand out right at the very end. Before you get all excited and hit the send button on your computer, proofread your letter more than once or get the eye of someone who is good with grammar to look it over.

If you’ve referenced the job posting several times as you are composing your cover letter, there is every chance you’ve actually marketed yourself to the very things the employer requires. Good for you if this is the case. If you wrote your cover letter without even a cursory glance at the job posting, you may have a great cover letter that’ so generic, it doesn’t resonate with the people receiving it and it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to; fire them up to want to read your resume and extend the offer of an invitation.

Now, if by any chance you aren’t sold on writing a cover letter, I implore you to consider moving to Ontario; specifically the Durham Region area where I work as an Employment Counsellor. Yes, by all means I’d love to have those I counsel compete with you for jobs and careers out there. After all, you’d certainly improve THEIR chances of landing those precious interviews!


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