I’ve noticed that more and more online job applications are asking for cover letters to be submitted along with the résumé.
The fact is employers are so inundated with résumé submissions that they are trying to come up with tactics to limit the number of applications they need to review by implementing a way that eliminates certain candidates immediately from the hiring process.
Once of those tactics is mandating a cover letter.
In some cases, the employer will even stipulate the length of the letter, what kind of information is to be included, and other things.
The candidates who meet the cover letter criteria are flagged accordingly and their applications are moved forward in the process.
The candidates who choose to skip submitting the letter (or include it but don’t follow the instructions) are typically eliminated from the process even if they have a strong résumé!
If you skip the cover letter and just send your résumé, you might be slashing your chances of getting interviews.
I would advise that you read the entire job posting carefully to determine what other documents you need to send along with your résumé which in many cases, is a cover letter.
Oftentimes, the instructions will be buried near the end of the job posting. This strategy helps the employer determine if the candidate read the job ad thoroughly.
If you skim the job ad or don’t read it from start to finish, it’s easy to miss important information and instructions, so best to read it through, line by line.
Sometimes the instructions will have specific criteria that must be met which is used to establish how well the candidate follows instructions.
For instance, the employer might demand a cover letter that addresses the key job requirements, is no more than 250 words, and must be sent as a separate PDF file. If you send a generic cover letter that’s 350 words and include it along with the résumé as one file in Word, you will probably be disqualified.
I know it might seem unreasonable, but you must be aware that every employer is going to use specific selection criteria that they feel helps uncover the best candidates which goes beyond just job skills and experience.
They’re trying to assess soft skills which in this case are things like attention to detail, compliance, and ability to follow instructions.
Now, just because you send a great cover letter doesn’t mean you can send a crappy résumé (or vice versa). Both documents must be written equally well, be tailored for each job application, highlight your key expertise and accomplishments, include key words, among other things.
While a great cover letter won’t guarantee you interviews or the job for that matter (just like a résumé), it can certainly boost your chances quite a bit.
Therefore, if the job posting does NOT stipulate a cover letter, I strongly recommend that you send one anyways For information about cover letter, read the articles below:
Now the opposite can be true.
There are actually instances where the employer stipulates that the applicant does NOT send a cover letter. This would be the only time you wouldn’t send one.
Applying online with a cover letter
Each employer will be using a different applicant tracking system.
Some systems will let you upload all of your required documents such as the résumé, cover letter, certifications, etc. as separate files. If that’s the case, then I recommend that you upload them as separate files.
Don’t forget to give each document a file name that includes your name, the name of the employer, the job title, and the type of document (i.e. résumé, cover letter, etc.).
Other systems will allow you to upload only one file. If that’s the case, then you can merge your cover letter with your résumé and send it along as one file and label it accordingly
Some systems will provide a text box where you can send the employer a message. If that’s the case, then you could cut and paste your cover letter and put it in the text box.
You could still upload the cover letter as a separate file or merged onto the résumé. That means, they will get the cover letter two different ways to increase its chances of being read.
Just to recap….
If the job posting requires a cover letter, include one
If the job posting clearly states to NOT send a cover letter, don’t send one
If the job posting doesn’t mention a cover letter, send one anyways
It doesn’t hurt to include a cover letter with your résumé. In fact, it can help. Many hiring managers and recruiters will read a cover letter provided it’s easy to read, has a good “hook”, and quickly communicates how amazing you are and how you’re going to help them.
A great cover letter can actually inspire the reader to WANT to read your résumé. In some cases, the hiring manager will immediately contact the candidate based on what they read in the cover letter alone.
Since many (if not most) jobseekers do not include a cover letter (or if they do it’s typically a boring, generic one) you have a great chance of winning the interview over your competitors when you send a stand-out cover letter.
Morale of the story? Include a cover letter!
10 Tips on writing a great cover letter
#1: Tailor the letter to the job posting and address the key requirements
#2: Limit it to no more than one page – the shorter, the better
#3: Start with a compelling hook to grab immediate attention of the reader
#4: Keep each paragraph short so the document is easy to read and ensure there is plenty of white space throughout
#5: Include key words
#6: Include 1 to 3 specific examples of accomplishments that are relevant to the position
#7: Don’t make it a rehash of your résumé
#8: Address it to the name of the hiring manager if possible (you’ll have to do some research)
#9: Address your “WHY” – why are you applying for this job with this company
#10: End with your strong interest in the position, request the interview, and ideally have some kind of call to action. For instance, you might give a specific date when you will follow up with them.
Download the sample
If you’re having trouble constructing a cover letter and need some inspiration, you can download the sample by clicking on the link below:
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