A cover letter is generally a one-page attachment that accompanies your resume, and that may also sometimes accompany even a standard job application, or serve as a letter of inquiry. Many people may think that a cover letter is optional – that it serves no better purpose than, say, a fax coversheet – but that is far from the truth. If you are not including a well-written cover letter with each and every one of your resumes, then you are seriously undermining all of the time and effort you are putting into your job search.
Here are the reasons for why you need a cover letter with your resume.
First impressions count the most. Most likely, potential employers will read your cover letter before they even glance at your resume. Why? Because your cover letter is like an introduction. It is a way for you to say “hi” and give a handshake without meeting in person. If you leave out the cover letter, then you are missing a huge opportunity to make a great first impression.
The value of narrative form. As opposed to the bullet/outline form used in resumes, the narrative form used in cover letters allows you to express yourself more fully and really put your personality on display. That means you get the chance to expound on the things about your resume that you feel are the strongest, in order to pique the interest of potential employers.
Competition. Look at it this way: your resume will be competing with who knows how many other resumes vying for the same spot. Some of those resumes will not be accompanied by a cover letter. Which candidate automatically has a one-up? It’s the one who took the extra time to submit a thoughtful cover letter. When it comes to job hunting, YOU want to be that person.
More than a resume. As previously mentioned, your cover letter is a chance to express things more fully than you can on a resume. Even more, though, a cover letter is a chance to impress potential employers with information that has no place on a resume. For example, you should tailor your cover letter to the specific job you are applying for, then include some information you learned about the company in order to show you have done your research. A sentence like, “I know that ABC Incorporated has been providing its patented products to customers for over fifty years, and that is what first inspired me to apply for this position,” is a great line to include in your opening paragraph.
A cover letter is not just a “maybe” or an “extra.” If you are serious about landing the job you really want, then a cover letter is necessary to making the kind of impression you want to make.