Do I Need a Cover Letter for My Resume? Your Must-have Job Search Guide

The above picture is of an African American woman smiling and holding up a Cover Letter for a job.

Do I Need a Cover Letter for My Resume? Your Job Search Guide

Don't send your resume in just yet! A February 2020 survey revealed that 83% of recruiters consider cover letters to be important in making hiring decisions. 

Yet many people are confused about cover letters. They ask questions like, "Do I need a cover letter for my resume?" To answer that question, you have to answer a few others. 

What is a cover letter, and why do recruiters need them? What should your cover letter include? What are some tips you can follow to make your letter stand out? 

Answer these questions and you can maximize cover letter benefits in no time. Here is your quick guide.

The Essentials of a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a letter that accompanies your resume and provides additional details about it. Your resume may only give bullet points that describe generalities about your work experience. Your cover letter will flesh these details out, giving examples of your accomplishments and explaining your personality. 

Some job applications say that a cover letter is optional. You can submit your resume without a cover letter and still be considered for the position. However, you are far less likely to move ahead with the application process. 

You should submit a letter for every resume you submit, regardless of the job. The only time you shouldn't is when the job application asks that you do not send a resume with a cover letter attached. 

What Your Cover Letter Should Say

The best resume cover letter will reflect the job description. Read the description carefully and see if there are any instructions in your letter. The job poster may want you to answer a specific question or include a word that indicates you read the description. 

Your cover letter should clarify any confusing details in your resume or application. If you had a career gap, you should explain why the gap occurred. You should explain why you are transitioning between companies or changing career paths, though you don't have to go into personal details. 

If you have a connection or referral to the company, you should mention that in your letter. Say who the person who referred you was and mention how they reached out to you. You should also acknowledge if you interned at the company or for a high-ranking employee. 

Feel free to give reasons why you want the job you are applying for. You can talk about company culture and how you admire the values of the company. 

You can write a cover letter even if you are a recent graduate or have limited job experience. You should talk about how your personal qualities and coursework give you the skills you need to tackle the job. 

Writing an Effective Letter

You should take a few steps to make your cover letter stand out while remaining professional. Take time practicing these steps and read drafts of your letter out loud to others.

Include Language From the Job Description 

Including words and short phrases from the job description is an easy way of connecting yourself to the job. If the description asks for "engaged" applicants, you should call yourself engaged. 

Don't drop entire sentences from the description into your cover letter. You should include words and phrases when they fit your writing naturally. 

You can also include language from the website of the company you are applying for. Look at the company's mission statement and add appropriate details.  

Be Targeted

You should write a new cover letter for each job you apply for. Hiring managers have read through hundreds, if not thousands, of cover letters during their careers. They know a form letter when they see one, and they will reject your application if they think your letter is too generic.

Putting language from the job description in your letter is one way to write a targeted letter. Another way is to match the paragraphs in your letter to the requirements in the description. 

If there are a few requirements, you can write a paragraph clarifying how you meet each one. If there is a long list of requirements, you can combine a few of them together within a paragraph.

You should address the hiring manager by name. Look at LinkedIn and the company's website and try to figure out who the hiring manager is. 

Proofread Your Work

Resume advice applies just as much to cover letters as it does to resumes. Your cover letter will get rejected if it has spelling and grammatical errors. Read your writing over several times, and use tools like Grammarly to catch errors.

You should also try reading your letter out loud. Your sentences should flow together seamlessly. You may need to remove details or add transition words in order to create a logical flow. 

Your letter should fit on one page, totaling roughly 300 words. It is okay to go up to 400, especially if you have to explain something important. But if your letter extends to a second page, you should read it over again and remove unnecessary details.

So Do I Need a Cover Letter for My Resume?

Everyone has questions about a cover letter like, "Do I need a cover letter for my resume?" The answer is yes. Recruiters love letters because they provide more details than a resume can provide. 

Anything that needs clarification should be clarified, especially a gap in your career history. You should also make it clear why you are a good fit for the job. Be specific to the job description, matching your experience to its qualifications. 

But you're not your own with your cover letter. disABLEDperson, Inc. helps applicants with disabilities with their applications. Build your resume today.