Should You Include a Cover Letter if it's Not Required?

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Do you really need a cover letter if a company doesn't ask for one? Composing a lot of cover letters during a job search can be very challenging for job seekers.

It's time-consuming to write a letter specifically for every job for which you apply. So, it's not surprising that applicants often ask if they need to include a cover letter when it is not explicitly required by an employer.

The short answer is that yes, you should almost always submit a cover letter, even if it is not required.

However, there are a few exceptions. Read below for more information.

Do You a Need Cover Letter if the Employer Doesn't Ask for One? Yes!

The simplest answer is yes, if you really want the job. A well written cover letter gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate. In a good cover letter, you can highlight your strongest qualifications.

An effective, customized cover letter will make it clear that you are highly interested in the job, and that you want the job enough to take the time to write a cover letter. 

A cover letter also gives you an opportunity to include information and explanations that your resume does not allow. For example, if you are applying from a distance, your cover letter will enable you to present a rationale for relocation and/or to mention that you will be in the area shortly for a possible interview.

 Gaps in employment with reasonable explanations can also be addressed in your letter. 

A cover letter is also a great place to provide specific examples that prove you have the skills and experience listed in your resume.

Employers often expect to receive cover letters even though they didn't actually list letters as a requirement in their job advertisements.

Candidates who don't take the time to compose a letter are often viewed as less motivated for the job. In many cases, employers won't even look at a job application that doesn't contain a cover letter or letter of interest.

For all these reasons, writing a good cover letter can help impress an employer, and get you an interview.

When Not to Include a Cover Letter

No letter may be better than a poorly written one. A well composed cover letter serves as a sample of your writing ability but, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don't have time to write a strong cover letter that pitches your skills for the job, don't bother to write one at all.

Likewise, if the job application instructs that you should not include a cover letter, then it's definitely best to follow directions so as not to annoy your potential employer.

Also, if the company asks you to submit your application through an online platform, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter or additional materials, do not worry about it.

Tips for Writing a Cover Letter When It’s Not Required

  • Write a targeted cover letter. As mentioned above, you want to write a strong cover letter, especially when it is not required. Be sure to write a targeted letter – this is a cover letter written with the job listing in mind. Focus on your skills and abilities that make you a strong fit for the specific job.
  • Keep it short. Some job seekers are concerned about burdening busy recruiters with letters when they are not asked for. Make sure that your letters are concise (no more than one page with 3-5 paragraphs) and that every statement conveys something significant about your candidacy.
  • Go beyond the resume. Avoid simply repeating your resume. Provide examples not listed in your resume, and/or expand upon things mentioned only briefly in your resume. The cover letter should serve a distinct purpose in your application.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Errors in your cover letter can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Be sure to thoroughly read through your letter before submitting it. Consider asking a friend or family member to read through your letter as well, checking for typos and confusing language.

Read MoreHow Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?

 | Cover Letter Examples and Tips | Targeted Cover Letters