There is an ongoing debate about the need for a cover letter when applying for a job. Just as there is a continuing debate about the optimal length of a resume.
The consensus of opinion among career counselors appears to be that it is still a good idea to write one. Some hiring managers will read them, while others may go right to the resume. Either way, it will still set you apart from those candidates who only send in a resume.
And today, when electronic communications such as texting and social media have become the norm, a cover letter can even take the form of an email sent directly to a recruiter or hiring manager. It does not have to be as formal as in the past, but can take on a more conversational style.
But the purpose of the cover letter is still pretty much the same — going beyond what’s on the resume, giving a more complete picture of your background and skills that might not come through otherwise.
The Content of a Cover Letter
Cover letters really don’t have to be that long, about 250 words. You can begin the letter by explaining why you want the job. Then you can elaborate on your accomplishments as they relate to the needs of the company.
Some career counselors recommend focusing on three things that exemplify your accomplishments and success to entice the hiring manager to further read your resume. You want to show what you can do for the company and how you can contribute to its goals. The cover letter is not only elaborating on your knowledge and skills, it is also demonstrating how well you can communicate, which is another highly-valued skill today.
As with the resume, you need to tailor your letter to each company you are applying to. It doesn’t help to send the same letter to different companies as they have different needs and may be looking for different qualifications.
The bottom line is that a cover letter can help you stand out among other applicants, giving you an upper hand in the application process.
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