Updated: Feb 17
We’ve all been there. You just completed a needlessly tedious online application for a role. You adjusted your resume to demonstrate that you fit the qualifications described in the job description. You uploaded your resume in the required field and noticed the optional field to upload your cover letter. Optional. You’re tired and ready to check this task off of your to do list. It’s optional, right? Cover letters don’t really matter, right?
If you ask ten people about the importance of cover letters, you’ll probably hear ten different opinions. At ReFresh Your Step, we encourage our clients to always submit a cover letter as part of their applications. In fact, cover letters are included in our Basic, Plus, and Master Bundles. Read on for five ways cover letters help you to communicate your Pattern of Excellence to potential employers.
1. Cover Letters Demonstrate Soft Skills
In the current hiring landscape, more and more employers value candidates who come into the job equipped with soft skills like the ability to solve problems, think critically, and collaborate well with teams. While it can be challenging to describe these skills in concise bullet points on a resume, a cover letter gives you more flexibility to describe your soft skills, and even provide examples. For instance, you can write something like “I noticed in the job description that the ideal candidate for this role will thrive in team settings. In my current position, I collaborate with our product management, marketing, and finance departments to understand how to coach my sales team to reach the organization’s goals. As a cross-functional leadership team, we work together to establish priorities and strategies, and run ideas by one another to find the most effective solutions.”
2. Cover Letters Show Your Interest
While it can be tempting to “apply in one click” to positions you see posted online, taking the time to write a cover letter shows the company that this specific role truly interests you. When a hiring manager reads your customized cover letter, he or she will understand that the time you spent to write the document reflects your interest in the job. And after all, most organizations prefer to hire candidates who are actually excited about working there. You can also show off the fact that you took some time to research the organization prior to applying. For instance, you can include a statement like “I noticed on your website that WXY Corporation has committed to instituting environmentally sustainable production methods. I share that commitment to sustainability and look forward to bringing my expertise in energy-efficient manufacturing to your organization.”
3. Cover Letters Can Help You Get Through Applicant Tracking Systems
By now, you’re probably familiar with applicant tracking systems, otherwise known as the dreaded ATS. Applicant tracking systems exist to streamline the recruitment process by scanning and parsing resumes to identify key content. Here at ReFresh Your Step, we produce ATS friendly resumes for each of our clients. In addition to scanning resumes, some ATS programs will also scan and parse cover letters, thus giving you another opportunity to add key words and content to your overall application. As an applicant, you have no way of knowing if the cover letter will be scanned along with the resume. My advice: assume that it will be! Submitting a well written cover letter along with your resume could help you to move to the top of the digital stack.
4. Cover Letters Can Leverage Your Network
We coach our clients to leverage their networks as much as possible throughout the job search (and before and after – networking never ends!). Because of your dedicated efforts to networking, you may have learned about the role to which you are applying from one of your personal or professional contacts. In that case, include their name within your cover letter. This will capture the attention of your reader and give your application a bit more clout as you move through the hiring process. For instance, you can include a line similar to this: “My former colleague and your current Accounting Manager, Marcy Cortez, encouraged me to apply for this role.” Or perhaps you learned of the opportunity through a LinkedIn post in one of your professional organizations. You could write: “I saw this position posted in the LinkedIn group for the Society of Women Engineers and it immediately struck my interest.” In both examples, you establish a common ground with the organization and/or the hiring manager, which is always helpful.
5. Cover Letters Demonstrate How Well You Communicate
If you have read any of the hundreds of articles or blog posts about the most important skills in the workplace, you know that communication often ranks at or near the top of the list. Employers want to hire candidates who communicate clearly and concisely, both on paper and in person. You’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate your verbal communication skills in an interview, but having a well written cover letter will help you to land that interview opportunity in the first place. Personally, I received an interview invitation from a hiring manager who told me that she only scanned my resume for a few seconds, but read every word of my cover letter. To her, hiring someone who could communicate well, especially in writing, was of paramount importance for that role.
So, do cover letters matter? Yes! If the opportunity exists to include a cover letter with your application, please submit one. Overwhelmed by establishing a strong cover letter template? We can help! We provide you with a solid document tailored to the roles you plan to pursue, with added flexibility for you to customize your cover letter for individual positions. That customization process should only take a few minutes of your time – time well spent! A well written cover letter can open the door to your next great opportunity.