Although your resume is without a doubt the most crucial aspect of a job application, your cover letter also plays a big role in giving prospective employers the right first impression. Online job applications are now the norm and it's becoming increasingly common for cover letters to be an optional extra. It's tempting to forgo the cover letter in these instances, but doing so could mean you miss out on exciting roles. Here are five reasons why cover letters are so important.
1. A cover letter provides a strong first impression
When you submit a cover letter in instances where it's optional, you demonstrate that you're prepared to go the extra mile. You should personalise each cover letter you send out to each individual employer.
Research the company, address the letter to the specific individual receiving applications, and briefly mention details about the organisation or role that makes you want to work there. Doing this takes time, but it shows that you're committed, you pay attention to detail, and you value building personal connections with others.
2. A cover letter lets you mention a referral
In cases where someone has referred you for a job role, the cover letter is the place to mention this critical detail. You may have heard about the role via a networking event, or been encouraged to apply by a family member, friend, or former colleague. No matter where the referral came from, mention it. The hiring manager may consider the name of the referrer to be a strong recommendation about your suitability for the role. Even better, they might reach out to the referrer for more details about you. Plus, you can explain why your conversation with the referrer inspired you to apply, proving your enthusiasm for the role and company.
3. A cover letter highlights your best achievements
If you have lots of achievements and qualifications on your resume, your cover letter is a great way to highlight those most relevant for the role. Employers look at each resume for around six to seven seconds on average. They tend to be inundated with applications, and they must skim through them initially to pick out the most qualified candidates. Your cover letter is a great way to draw attention to the highlights of your resume that demonstrate why you're perfect for the job.
4. A cover letter allows you to describe your career goals
Your resume says a lot about your career history, but nothing about your career future. The cover letter is where you can briefly explain what the next step in your career is and why this particular job aligns with your aspirations. Employers look for passionate candidates. If you can demonstrate that you're thinking about your long-term career progression, you can prove that you're enthusiastic about the role.
5. A cover letter can give your application an edge
It's a myth that employers don't read cover letters anymore. 87% of hiring professionals say they do, and 65% say cover letters influence their decisions on who to interview or hire. It's particularly common to read cover letters in instances where a resume raises questions, such as when there are gaps in work history or there has been a dramatic change in career.
Cover letters are also useful for hiring managers when they're narrowing down their selection process and choosing which candidates to interview. In cases where your qualifications and work history align closely with several other candidates, a compelling cover letter could make the difference between being invited to interview and being rejected for the role.
If in doubt, include a cover letter
Sometimes job descriptions don't explicitly ask for a cover letter, but it's always safer to include one. When applying for jobs via email, include a cover letter as an additional document or treat the email itself as the cover letter. When using online job portals, look out for blank fields allowing you to input additional information or the ability to upload supporting documents, both of which are great ways to include a cover letter. You may never know if your cover letter is read or not, but spending a little extra time in crafting one is worthwhile if it boosts your chances of securing your next role.