Very often I get asked if it is really necessary to include a cover letter with a resume. Usually clients ask is it really all that important to even bother writing a cover letter, how long the cover letter should be, should it be tailored for each prospective employer, and so on. In this article I want to clarify the importance of a cover letter and how to make it work for you.
Is it all that important to have a cover letter? Yes. The cover letter is a great way to begin the process of selling your value to a prospective employer. It is like the wrapping on the package. It encourages the hiring manager to want more information about you, and encourages the hiring manager to seriously review your resume. Additionally, the cover letter allows you to clarify information that could not be included in your resume eg. why you wish to transition into another field of work.
How long should the cover letter be? It is best to keep a cover letter to one page with 4 or 5 brief paragraphs that highlight your accomplishments and what value you bring to an employer. It is okay to use bullet points for emphasis as long as the whole resume is not in bullets (boring to read). Short chunked up paragraphs are the best and easiest to read. If you use bullets, use no more than 3 to 5.
Should the cover letter be tailored specifically to the position and each prospective employer? Yes. Make sure that the information you include is specific to the company and the position. Whenever possible reference a challenge the company may be facing and how your qualifications can help. This shows that you understand the company’s issues and how you might solve problems for them.
Cover letters should not be long detailed explanations. In today’s world, clear crisply written cover letters with pertinent and specific information will catch the attention of a hiring manager. When writing your cover letter sound confident and able to provide solutions to the employer’s specific challenges.