Ask 100 recruiters whether you need to include a cover letter with your resume and you will get 100 different answers. They will also provide you with different advice on what to include.
As a job search and career expert who has spoken one-on-one with literally thousands of employers, I want you to know that there is no single right answer when it comes to whether you should submit a cover letter with your resume. However, there are cover letter best practices to increase the chances of landing your dream job.
3 Reasons To Include A Cover Letter With Your Resume
In this article, I share both the advantages and disadvantages of submitting a cover letter with your resume. I also explain what to include when you decide to submit one.
1. Highlight what sets you apart from other candidates.
There are several situations when is to your advantage to submit a cover letter with your resume. First, a cover letter is an opportunity to stand out in the saturated job market and quickly distinguish yourself from other job seekers.
With the typical job opening receiving hundreds of applications, your introductory letter is the perfect opportunity to help employers understand why they should interview you over other candidates. This alone is enough reason to include a cover letter with nearly every resume you submit.
Important: Use your cover letter to highlight what makes you unique. Avoid the common mistake of simply repeating your resume or LinkedIn profile.
2. Showcase your communication skills for prospective employers.
Next, your cover letter is also an opportunity to present your communication skills to recruiters and hiring managers. While you will highlight your experience and accomplishments in your resume, your cover letter is a distinct opportunity to showcase your ability to craft a concise yet powerful message in a business setting.
Furthermore, your cover letter allows you to demonstrate your ability to influence people through written words. Again, remember to avoid the mistake of writing a cover letter that just summarizes your resume.
3. Describe your leadership style.
Finally, your cover letter is an important addition to your resume if you will be leading people, projects, or other important business initiatives. Moreover, a cover letter is nearly mandatory if you are applying to executive-level roles that will require you to regularly flex your leadership skills.
With this in mind, use your cover letter to communicate your distinct leadership style. Be sure to include specific examples and clear results from your career.
3 Reasons Not To Include A Cover Letter With Your Resume
Submitting a cover letter with your resume makes sense in most situations, but there are a few instances where you may wish to skip it.
1. You have poor communication skills.
While your cover letter is an opportunity to highlight your communication skills, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot. In other words, it is better to skip the cover letter than submit a poorly crafted one.
If you struggle with written communication, consider asking for help in developing your cover letter. A career coach can support you in developing a high-impact cover letter that speaks to your fabulousness.
2. You have limited time for your job search.
Submitting a cover letter with each resume may not be feasible if you work full-time and have limited hours to look for a new job. You should spend the majority of your job search efforts on the art of networking anyways.
That being said, a template cover letter that you quickly customize for each company and role can save you considerable time. I advise my clients to set a timer for a maximum of 20 minutes to limit how much time they spend customizing their cover letters.
3. The job posting asks you not to submit a cover letter.
As a job seeker, it is important that you strictly follow the instructions listed in each job posting. Refrain from submitting a cover letter if the job posting specifically states not to include one with your application. You want to prevent getting off the wrong foot with a recruiter or hiring manager by ignoring their instructions.
An Important Note: Cover letter requirements and job search best practices will vary based on your industry, job function, and experience level. Use your intuition and judgment to determine whether you need to include one alongside your resume. You’ve got this!