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 Nikki Stokes
Nikki Stokes

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What is a Cover Letter and Do I Need One?

What is a Cover Letter and Do I Need One?

What is a Cover Letter and Do I Need One?

People find themselves on the hunt for a new job for many reasons.

Perhaps you’ve reached a glass ceiling, have a newfound skill or interest, are moving, or have found another key reason for a career change.

Whatever your motivation, you now need a solid application that will help you make the right move.

As you begin putting in application after application, you stumble upon an opportunity that requires a cover letter. Naturally, a few questions arise.

What is a cover letter? You know vaguely what a cover letter is, but what exactly should you be putting on there? 

Is a cover letter necessary? Not all jobs require cover letters, so is it worth taking the time to write one?

A cover letter is like the abstract of a research paper; it serves as the front page, or preview, of your resume.

This document allows you to highlight certain abilities and traits, showcase your communication skills, and entice the employer to continue on to read your resume.

Who needs a cover letter?

Everyone.

While not every job will require one or even request one, under no circumstances should you consider submitting your resume without one. 

In fact, you should especially include a cover letter in the event that a job application does not require or request one. This is because it is more likely that other candidates will not submit one.

By submitting one, you are giving yourself an automatic head start, and standing out to the employer before anyone else has the chance to. 

A cover letter is your opportunity to show your seriousness about applying for and getting the job, and it is your chance to tailor your application specifically to that job.

What to include in a cover letter

Each job application you submit should have a specific cover letter.

While some information will remain the same, you should adjust each letter to address the specific employer, the position you are applying for, and to highlight the skills and experience you have specific to this role.

Like you would for an interview, you should start by doing a little research for your cover letter.

You do not want to include an array of statistics in this document, however, if there is something that you can relate strongly to, it can give you a good lede. 

A basic cover letter should always include:

  • Your personal details (name, address, contact information)
  • The hiring manager's name addressed in a professional salutation
  • Why you feel you are the best fit for this position
  • What you bring to the table
  • A proper closer

Our free guide to Writing Killer Cover Letters shows you step by step what to include in your cover letter to make sure you catch the hiring manager’s attention.

What to leave out of a cover letter

There are always do's and don'ts with job hunting, resumes and yes, even cover letters.

Because this is the preview or cover page of your resume, you want to be sure to leave out any unwanted or unnecessary information that could distract from the important stuff.

A few things you should not include in your cover letter are: 

  • Too much information about your work history. You should only include information about jobs you have held that apply directly to the skills needed for this position. 
  • Personal information, such as family, hobbies, and religious and political views
  • Generic information. This will make you sound insincere, which can quickly lead to you being skipped over. 

How to lay out a cover letter 

A cover letter should be concise. Bear in mind, this is just a preview of your resume.

Think of it almost like the table of contents in a book - it is simply meant to get someone to read more, not to give them every single detail. 

Keep your cover letter to one page, use a professional font and always check your spelling and grammar.

Start by addressing the employer. Then, in your first sentence note which job you are applying for.

Keep the body paragraphs short and direct. Lastly, be sure to end with a professional, yet warm closer. 

To help you write a cover letter that gets you noticed every single time, make sure to grab your free copy of our guide to Writing Killer Cover Letters.

Get started writing your cover letter

A cover letter is a preview of your resume. It serves to give your audience a brief overview of what you offer as a candidate and to encourage them to keep reading.

Think of it as a cliffhanger at the end of a book. When it comes to a large pool of applicants, it could be just what you need to stand out in the crowd and get your resume forward to the next step. 

Now that you know what a cover letter is, it’s time to check out a few cover letter examples and start building your own.

As you prepare for your next interview, think carefully about your cover letter and how you want to use it to represent yourself as the best possible candidate for the position. 

And make sure to download our guide to Writing Killer Cover Letters, and you’ll be on your way to landing an interview for your dream job in no time!

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