Without a cover letter, you're relying solely on your resume to make a big enough impact that the hiring manager will call you back for an interview. That's asking a lot. From demonstrating your communication skills to keeping the follow-up ball in your court, a cover letter can strengthen your candidacy and increase your odds of landing an interview. Here are 6 valid reasons why a cover letter is absolutely necessary:
- It tells the employer who you are and why they want you.
Yes, the Objective or Professional Summary on your resume also does this, but only in so many words. In the body of the letter, you have the room to elaborate on your experiences and interest in the position.
- It showcases your writing ability.
Resumes have strict formulas with bullet points and short, choppy statements. A cover letter allows you to write more fluently. Since employers like to see that you can communicate well in writing, a proper cover letter puts the right foot forward from the get-go.
- It lets you highlight your strengths.
Your resume lists the roles you played and the significant accomplishments you achieved in your most recent positions. But when you're constrained to one page (or two, if you have that much relevant experience), you may be forced to sacrifice some details in favor of length. In your cover letter, you can explain and draw attention to a few noteworthy experiences from your resume. It also helps start to demonstrate your personality, which is often even more important than your qualifications.
- It shows that you're serious about the opportunity.
One of the biggest complaints recruiters and managers have when they're actively looking for a new hire is the applicants' failure to provide a cover letter. When you apply for a job by simply submitting your resume and nothing more, the hiring manager could interpret this as a lazy move on your part. If two equally qualified candidates apply, do you want to be the one who took the time to write a cover letter, or the one who didn't?
- It makes up for a resume that can't stand alone.
Granted, your resume should be effective if unaccompanied by a cover letter, but in case that resume just isn't as persuasive as you thought it was, a cover letter can make up for it. There are numerous instances where a strong cover letter - not the resume - instigates a callback.
- It sets up the follow-up.
Instead of leaving the next step in the employer's hands, use your cover letter to take control of the follow-up process. In the closing, specify a specific date and time that you will call them. The follow-up in your cover letter eliminates the waiting game so you can move on with an interview or move on to another job opening.
A cover letter can make or break your chance at an interview. Have you seen a higher number of callbacks when you use them (versus not using them)?