Here's a common complaint we often hear from readers and job seekers: "I don't want to spend ages drafting and editing the perfect cover letter! Cover letters are dumb! I don't think my potential employers are even reading my letter at all, and besides, aren't all cover letters basically the same?"
Our answer: yes, most cover letters follow the same basic format. Applicants usually state the job they're applying for, then restate the key items and highlights of the attached resume before politely signing off. But here a few reasons to invest some serious attention in this aspect of your application.
1. Optional cover letters are NOT optional.
When the application instructions tell you that cover letters are "optional," that means they aren't. Submit a letter anyway, and you'll instantly give your resume a voice and personality that will give you an advantage over other applicants that don't choose to take this step.
2. Managers do actually read cover letters (sometimes).
Sometimes application submissions are separated upon receipt, and while your resume is bundled away into a database, a document file, or an application tracking system, your cover letter may be bound for the trash. But sometimes this doesn't happen at all. And since you don't really know which fate will befall your letter, it's a good idea to expect the second.
3. Some managers love cover letters.
Since the cover letter is written in prose and complete sentences, and resumes are broken up into lists and bullet points, the cover letter is usually more readable, memorable, and interesting than its counterpart. So even if the resume is the document on which hiring decisions are technically based, the letter may actually hold more influence.
4. Your letter speaks volumes about your general intelligence.
There are two qualities that suggest a high potential candidate: First, technical skills. The right candidate will hold all the skill sets that he or she will need in order to complete the tasks required by this open position. But great candidates are also smart, which means they can articulate their thoughts, anticipate their employer's needs, and write a message made up of smooth, clear, complete, and relevant sentences. You know how to do this, so show off a little.
5. Your letter reveals your personality.
Your cover letter provides the equivalent of a smile and a firm handshake. And just as these two moves can make a great impression and lay the groundwork for a successful interview, a friendly, well-dressed letter can help you land that interview in the first place.
6. Your letter shares your level of interest in the job.
Managers often assess a candidate's interest in the job based on the tone and language of her cover letter. If your resume portrays you as overqualified, for example, managers will sift your letter for signs of boredom, resignation, entitlement, or low commitment. If your resume portrays you as slightly under qualified, readers will be skimming your letter hoping for signs of enthusiasm, clear long term goals, and a willingness to grow and learn.
Don't Underestimate Your Cover Letter
For more guidance, tips, templates, and tools that can help you get the most out of your cover letter, visit MyPerfectResume's Cover Letter Builder.