Author: Cliff Mintz
Before the advent of the internet, a cover letter was an essential requirement when applying for a job. These days, however, some companies may require a cover letter while others do not. Interestingly, in some instances, companies do not specify whether or not a cover letter is required; leaving the decision to include one (or not) up to you! That said, if a cover letter is optional in the job search, I highly recommend that you upload one with your resume when applying for a job. After all, it is just one more click to upload it to your online job application and it may make the difference between an interview or not.
Purpose of a Cover Letter
Cover letters offer jobseekers an opportunity (or an edge) to get noticed by employers. Typically, a cover letter is a written version of an “elevator pitch” that is used by jobseekers to extoll their skills, qualities, experiences and strengths that make them stand out from other job applicants. Put simply, it is a way for a job seeker to convince a hiring manager that he/she is the “right fit” candidate for a particular job. While the job market is currently a great one for job seekers in many disciplines, there are certain jobs (like the biotech and pharmaceutical jobs) that remain highly competitive and where a cover letter may be helpful to get your “foot in the door.”
Cover Letter Organization in the Job Search
First, it is not a bad idea to create a template cover letter. This will eliminate the need to rewrite one every time that you apply for a new job. However, it is important to note that the cover letter must be tweaked and tailored to each job that you apply for. This is because the requirements, expertise and qualifications may vary from job to job and your cover letter must reflect these differences.
Second, it is not unreasonable to address the cover letter to: “Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager.” That said, if you have the name of the hiring manager addressing the cover letter to them is a must.
Third, the first paragraph of a cover letter is intended to capture your career highlights. These include your top skills, past relevant work experience and achievements as an employee. The goal here is to convince the hiring manager that you would be a good fit for the job and what value you might bring to a company if hired. Also, when crafting this paragraph, it is advisable to include key words and phrases from the job description. This demonstrates attention to detail and mindfulness and may help to pique the interest of the hiring manager to consider you (rather than other job applicants) as a possible interview candidate. Finally, if you have an executive summary as part of your resume, you can simply incorporate it as part of the first paragraph of your cover letter.
Fourth, a second paragraph is optional but may include when you may be available to start, whether or not you are interested in onsite or remote work and any other information (additional skills, fluency in a foreign language, volunteer activities etc.) that you think would help you stand out from other job applicants.
Finally, close the cover letter by thanking them for their consideration and that you are looking forward to hearing from them soon regarding your candidacy.
Before You Hit Send
It is vitally important that the cover letter be spelled checked and read several times before uploading it and hitting the send button. Spelling, grammatical errors and poor sentence structure can doom a job application even though you may be a well-qualified candidate for a particular job.