When you are busy organizing job descriptions and sending out hundreds of resumes, the last thing you want to do is to think about composing yet another document. After all, many employers do not ask for a cover letter, and many of them may not take the time to read one. So should you just skip the cover letter? It depends on the application requirements and what you want to say to a potential employer.
A cover letter is not a restatement of your resume. The mistaken assumption that it is is one reason why hiring managers do not read them. However, companies often run multiple ads for different positions, and the first line of your cover letter should make it clear which job you are applying for and how you found out about it.
Use the second paragraph to show how your experience can add value at the employer’s company. This is where people make the mistake of reiterating what is on their resume. Instead of informing the advertising employer that you were the Director at XYZ Advertising Agency, you can state that the position also gave you exposure to various media outlets, key decision makers and Fortune 500 companies.
The third paragraph of your cover letter is your opportunity to clarify anything that is not specifically addressed on your resume, such as you have the skill sets for one career but would like to use them to move in a different direction, potentially into a related career. You can also use this paragraph to give the employer information that they asked for in their ad that would typically not go on a resume such as salary history and expectations.
Use your closing paragraph to express that you are looking forward to speaking with the employer regarding the position. If you send a paper copy of your cover letter, make sure you sign it in the space between Sincerely and your full name. This is one detail people often forget to do.
If the employer does not request a cover letter or specific information that does not go on a resume, you do not have to send one. However, a cover letter gives you an opportunity to showcase your writing skills and to give the employer a feel for your personality and work style.