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Do You Really Need a Cover Letter?

For many job seekers, the worst part of the job application process is creating a cover letter. In this age of LinkedIn and online applications, it might seem like this part of the traditional procedure is out-of-date and unnecessary. So do you have to write a cover letter? The answer, as expected is, "It depends." More specifically, it depends on how you are applying for a role.

For many job seekers, the worst part of the job application process is creating a cover letter. In this age of LinkedIn and online applications, it might seem like this part of the traditional procedure is out-of-date and unnecessary. So do you have to write a cover letter? The answer, as expected is, “It depends.” More specifically, it depends on how you are applying for a role.

unique cover letter

(Photo Credit: Sheffield Tiger/Flickr)

Technically speaking, if you are submitting your resume through the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), then there’s only a particular format that the system will recognize and accept. So depending on how the system is designed, you may or may not be able to include a cover letter.

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In all other cases, including a cover letter is a very good idea. A well-written cover letter at the very least will help differentiate you from the rest of the applicants and show that you’ve taken the time to let the hiring team know why you are interested in the role. At its best, it will land you an interview.

If you have the contact details of the hiring manager/recruiter and are directly writing to them, your cover letter is the body of your email. This medium is also a great opportunity to build a professional rapport with the recipient and you can capitalize on it by keeping the content relevant and succinct. Unless specifically asked, you don’t have to attach a separate cover letter along with your resume in this case.

Many companies specifically ask for a cover letter and many specifically point out that they do not want a cover letter. Pay attention to the directions.

A cover letter is especially useful if you need to explain something that your resume cannot. But, don’t use it to give new information – use it to explain and make the information relevant to the job. For example, if there’s a change in your job role, such as that you moved from marketing to sales, but are applying for a marketing role, you could use the cover letter to substantiate your interest “I’ve dabbled in various functions to gain a more rounded perspective and have particularly enjoyed my marketing stint, where I felt challenged to increase brand awareness of X soap, much like the stage <the company you are applying to> is in with product Y.”

Can you do away without a cover letter, if it is not specifically requested? Of course, but making an effort to write a cover letter displays exactly that – that you want the company to know that you are genuinely interested in the role and are willing to invest the time and energy to help the company understand your credentials better.

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Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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