A cover letter may be what motivates the hiring manager to read further and take a closer look at your resume. A cover letter may also be the difference between getting an interview and being passed over.
Read a Revision Resume case study that demonstrates how including a cover letter resulted in multiple interviews, and ultimately, multiple job offers!
Should I Include a Cover Letter Even if it isn't Required?
Yes! Always Include a Cover Letter!
Writing a cover letter will help you stand out against the competition. Be sure to provide a well-written, well-formatted, edited and proofread cover letter for each position you apply to. Consider the following advantages of including a cover letter (for more details read our blog "Do I Really Need a Cover Letter?"):
Provides the an additional opportunity for you to advocate for yourself and express why you should be hired for this position.
Allows you to give details about why you are applying for this specific job. You can include details that don't fit within a resume, such as relocation or a recommendation from a company employee.
Chance to explain away the red flags that show up in the resume before they are seen.
Gives another opportunity to incorporate keywords from the job posting. A cover letter may also go through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Allows you to go into greater detail about specific career highlights than fit within the confines of a resume.
Are There Any Situations Where a Cover Letter Should Not be Included?
The only situation in which Revision Resume suggests not including a cover letter is if the job posting specifically says that a cover letter should not be submitted. Keep in mind that a cover letter may be expected, even if it isn't specifically requested. Only skip it if the job posting clearly indicates not to include one!
What is the Format of a Cover Letter?
Revision Resume advises you to use a business letter format when you create your cover letter. Some job applicants wonder if this is necessary, since most cover letters are submitted electronically, but
every interaction during a job search should be professional. Providing a business letter style cover letter demonstrates that desired professionalism.
What Should Be Included in Business Letter Formatting?
Your contact information
Business address for the hiring company
Body that is multiple paragraphs long
To Whom Should I Address the Cover Letter?
This is a common issue. Often, job postings don't list the hiring manager's name, but it is best to address your cover letter directly to the person that will be reading it. For that reason, you may want to take the time to do some investigating and see if you can figure out who that person is. Do you know anyone that works at the company that you could ask? Can you figure it out via LinkedIn? Is there a phone number you could call to ask?
Can't Find an Answer? Still Personalize if Possible
Taking a bit of time to research who the person doing the hiring is may be worthwhile, as it may help elevate you as a potential job candidate. However, in some cases it isn't possible to locate the name of the hiring manager. In that case, we recommend you try to be as specific as possible. Do you know what department you will be working in? If so, address to the hiring manager of that department. For example, if you are applying to be an optical engineer, address your cover letter to the "Optical Engineering Hiring Manager."
Avoid Generic Salutations
Revision Resume highly recommends avoiding generic salutations, such as "To Whom It May Concern." While this used to be very common, it is now considered outdated. In fact, it may even be viewed as a bit lazy, since addressing to a specific department doesn't require that much research and effort. A company is more likely to award an interview to someone who appears engaged in the job search and interested in this particular position. Spending a few minutes attempting to personalize your cover letter helps express that necessary level of effort.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
Resumes can be more than one page...can cover letters as well? No, it is best to keep your cover letter to one page in length! A hiring manager isn't going to want to take the time to read a multiple page cover letter. You should be able to keep it to one page yet still include all of the necessary information.
In addition, make sure the cover letter easily readable. Include bullet points and bolding, instead of having long paragraphs. It should be easy for the reader to skim for the highlights. For additional suggestions on cover letters, read our blog: "Revision Resume's Best Practices for Creating a Cover Letter."
Revision Resume's Additional Tips for What to Include (and What NOT to Include) in a Cover Letter?
Above, we have discussed the main aspects of a cover letter including length, who to address the letter to, and why you should write one. Now, let's take a look at what to include and what to omit!
Study the job posting and identify 3-5 requirements you fill. Then, highlight how your strengths relate to those requirements.
Be sure to incorporate keywords within the cover letter; it may pass through an Applicant Tracking System.
Mention how you heard about the position. Referrals are often helpful in elevating you compared to other candidates.
Explain any issues that the hiring manager will see in your resume. Do you have a job gap or are you currently living in the wrong town, but will be relocating? Explain these red flags so they don't result in your resume landing on the discard pile.
Customize the cover letter for the specific position your are applying for. Don't submit the same cover letter over and over again.
Negative comments. Don't badmouth your current job or your current boss. You don't need to mention why you are looking to leave your present role in your cover letter.
Personal Accomplishments. Owning a home, your success in your golf league, and your child's soccer championship are all things to be proud of, but they are not relevant to the job you are applying for.
Skills You Don't Have. You may not have every skill listed on the job posting. That is OK. However, you don't need to point it out in the cover letter. Focus on the requirements you do have, not those you don't.
Your Entire History. We have established that the cover letter needs to only be one page. It should be short and to the point. Don't include every detail of your past -- only information that is relevant to this role.
Desired Salary. Avoid including your salary expectation within your cover letter. Listing something too high or too low will result in rejection before you have had a chance to discuss the topic during an interview.
Errors! If your cover letter has grammatical, spelling or other errors, it may result in rejection. Put in the effort to provide a flawless cover letter. Proofread, revise, review and edit multiple times.
Revision Resume has written numerous other blogs providing tips for cover letter best practices. To read them click here.
Why Should I Have Revision Resume Write My Cover Letter for Me?
Revision Resume will provide you a professionally written, error-free cover letter that you can submit with confidence. Beyond that, Revision Resume may cast you in a light you didn't see for yourself! Clients often indicate that our cover letter clearly and concisely highlights their strengths and unique skills in a way they hadn't previously been aware of.
"Creating a cover letter to be used and adjusted for different positions was an aspect that I used to see as optional, but now know how important a well-written one can be."
"I really loved the cover letter and think it will work perfectly."