Cover letters may seem optional in 2021. It’s well known that many – if not most – employers don’t even bother to read them. If your resume has the skills and credentials they are looking for, they’ll probably want to interview you. So why send a cover letter at all?
Because the competition for jobs can be fierce, and you need to stand out from the crowd of applicants. Here is how your cover letter can help you do just that.
Five ways you can use your cover letter to make an impression on employers
Write a cover letter
First off, the very act of sending a cover letter can give you a leg up. In an era where many applicants don’t bother to write one, you’ll be the candidate who put extra effort into your application. You didn’t cut corners or do the strict minimum. Even if the employer doesn’t care about cover letters, you still come across as the more motivated candidate.
Address it correctly
If you know the name of the manager of the job you are applying for, or if the job posting indicates who will be doing the hiring or who you will be reporting to, address your cover letter to them. This shows that you pay attention to detail and that you aren’t just sending out generic applications.
On that same note, don’t open with “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” These do look generic and outdated. Even if you do not know the name of the hiring manager, you can still do better than that.
Include something that is not in your resume
If the employer does read your cover letter, you want to use this opportunity to boost your chances of landing an interview. So, it shouldn’t just be a cut and paste of your resume. They already have that information. Make your introductory letter interesting. Share something about yourself, your motivation for joining the company, or your career ambition or achievements that aren’t in your resume.
Don’t use your cover letter as the only bridge between your resume and the role
Many people prepare a one-size-fits-all professional resume and use it for every job they apply for. They use their cover letter to explain how their past work and education makes them a great fit for the specific role they want.
That strategy only works if the hiring manager – and everyone else who might be on the hiring committee – actually reads both the resume and the cover letter. This is unlikely to happen. So, many people at the company you want to work for will only see a generic resume with no customization highlighting its relevance to the job at hand.
By all means, use your cover letter to explain your interest and fit for the job, but be sure to tailor your resume for the role as well.
Use your cover letter as the body of your email and as an attachment
I once received a three-word email application from a candidate for a job I was trying to fill. It read, “Please see attached.” His resume and cover letter were attached. Right away, I had a negative impression of the candidate because of the curt email. This is your first impression. The first thing an employer reads in an application that comes in by email is the body of that email.
So, make sure it is a friendly, professional, motivated communication. Write your cover letter into the body of the email. Then attach a cover letter file along with your resume. That little step is one more indication that you pay attention to detail and go the extra mile.
If the employer wants to save your application or print it for their records or to share with other members of the team, your cover letter is more likely to be included if it is a file than merely the body of your application email.
Then it will be on record that you are the candidate who wrote a professional cover letter, addressed it to the hiring manager, tailored it for the position, and shared relevant details not in your resume. That should help you outshine those applicants who merely sent in resumes and put much less effort into their applications.