Let’s start with, what actually is the purpose of a cover letter?
A cover letter is your opening pitch. It’s a way of explaining what your skills and attributes are and what you bring to the table.
Sounds great – right? But is your prospective employer actually reading it?
I have mixed feelings about cover letters and I certainly don’t think it’s a dead document but for what it’s worth, here’s my advice on when and when not to use one.
* If the job advertisement says, “send us a cover letter”, then 100% DO IT! This type of employer is probably looking for you to not only summarise your background but to either address some specific criteria or for you to wow them with something a little different that will make you stand out from the other applicants. If they’re asking for a cover letter, then make sure you know why and then you nail it – this is your firm handshake!
* If you’re applying for a technical or specialised role, then GO FOR IT! This is your chance to get really detailed about your skills and how you will add value to your potential new employer, particularly if it is project based. Ensure you’ve researched the company and get into the nitty gritty about how your specific set of skills or your experience fits into the organisation.
* If the job is being advertised by a recruiter, then this is a grey area (unless the points above are relevant). In my experience, most recruiters don’t have the time to read cover letters and the only reason they’ll read one is if your resume doesn’t hit the criteria mark and they’re looking for a little more information. My advice would be, ensure your resume is targeted to the role and review why you’re a good fit in a summary at the top of your resume. The easier you make the recruiters job, the happier they’ll be.
If you’re in doubt, then send one. It can’t hurt your chances (unless they specifically ask you NOT to send one) and will possibly round out your application. There are some great resources on the internet that can show you how to write an awesome cover letter but this one stands out for me. Good luck!