Find Out If You Need a Cover Letter

Learn When You Should Submit a Cover Letter With a Resume

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Do you really need a cover letter when you apply for jobs? You might wonder if you can get by with just a resume — particularly if the company doesn't specifically request or require a cover letter

It's only natural to wonder. After all, writing cover letters can be a time-consuming task. If there's an option to skip the labor involved in writing one, it's tempting. But in most cases, and particularly when the overall job market or your specific industry is competitive, a cover letter will help your candidacy.

Done right, it will highlight your most relevant skills and qualifications for the job.

Your cover letter is a good way to show an employer what you want them to know about you, without the hiring manager having to figure it out themselves from your resume. 

(Almost) Always Send a Cover Letter

Many career experts agree that sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision. Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert, says, "Your cover letter is particularly important. It's the job searcher's opportunity to help the potential employer see that the applicant's skills and experience match what the employer seeks. A well-written cover letter distinguishes your application."

Career expert Heather Huhman notes that "Cover letters allow you – in narrative form – to tell the employer exactly why hiring you, instead of the numerous other candidates, is a good decision.”

A cover letter can make a good impression on a prospective employer and is an excellent way to show that employer why you are a strong candidate for the job.

Resumes are helpful for giving an overview of your career, but a cover letter can tell a story about specific, relevant experience. They're also a chance to show off your personality. 

Cover letters also provide a useful way to explain away any potential concerns the employer might have about your candidacy, such as gaps in your employment or the fact that you will need to relocate for the job.

Put simply, a cover letter allows you to write a compelling case for your candidacy. Why would you want to skip this opportunity? Even if a job application does not require a cover letter, you can send one anyway. Often, employers expect a cover letter even if they do not directly ask for one. Sending one – particularly when it is not required – demonstrates that you are a motivated candidate.

When Not to Send a Cover Letter

If you're applying online for a job and there is no way to upload or post a cover letter, don't worry about it. You don't need one. When the employer specifically states what they want in a job application (resume, references, etc.), you don't have to write a cover letter if it is not included on the employer's list.

Make Sure It's a Good One 

While a well-written cover letter may increase your chances of getting an interview, the opposite is also true. A poorly written cover letter will likely cause an employer to reject your application. Therefore, only send one if you have the time to write a clear, concise, and professional letter that makes a strong sales pitch for getting an interview.

Make sure you write a targeted cover letter that specifically relates your experience to the job posting.

Keep it short and sweet – aim for three to five paragraphs – with each paragraph focusing on an aspect of your candidacy. Read the job description carefully, so you can make sure your cover letter really speaks to the requested qualifications. Bottom line, you want to make it clear why you'd be beneficial to the company in the position. 

Finally, be sure to thoroughly edit your cover letter. Typos and grammatical errors will demonstrate a sloppy work ethic to the employer. Use these proofreading tips to get started reviewing your cover letter for mistakes.  

Review Cover Letter Samples

Before you start, check out these cover letter examples to get ideas for your own letters. While you do not want to copy these samples precisely, reading them helps reveal what kind of tone is appropriate. Plus, take some time to review how to properly format your cover letter – hiring managers will notice if you do not follow these guidelines.


More About Cover Letters: How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be? | Should You Include a Cover Letter When It's Not Required?