As a professional resume writer, I am often asked this question from clients. My experience indicates that many employers will not even consider candidates who do not include a cover letter with their application – it’s your chance to stand out from other applicants – so the answer is always a resounding YES!
Many clients come to us requesting a ‘general’ cover letter that addresses a variety of roles they would like to apply for in the future. Whilst this can be achieved, I can’t stress enough the importance of specifically targeting your cover letter to individual roles. I always advise clients to modify their cover letter to specifically suit each role they apply for and never just reuse the same letter.
It’s important that the recruiter immediately identifies with you as someone who could do their job well. This means you need to spend some time analysing the role you are applying for and matching the requirements to your own skills and experience.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making it to the top of the recruiter’s pile:
- Be Succinct – clearly and briefly (no more than one A4 page) highlight why you are an ideal candidate. Do take care not to be too brief though. Don’t simply state that you think you’d be great in the role and refer the recruiter to your attached resume. Provide an overview of your background, summarise the relevant parts of your resume, and identify yourself as perfect for the role.
- Cross Match Your Skills – Sit down with the job ad and/or position description and go through it in detail – work out where your strengths lie. Make notes on all the areas you’d like to focus on. Your cover letter should highlight applicable skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, projects and general knowledge, then demonstrate (again briefly) how they match the specific requirements of the role.
- Add Value – Take the time to do some research into the company and mention why you would like to work for them – highlight similar roles you’ve held or companies you’ve worked for and how that experience might help you succeed in this role. Make sure you mention relevant achievements or projects.
- Request Contact – Always ensure your contact details are prominent on the cover letter and ask for an opportunity to discuss your experience / background further. Make sure you include your email address and mobile phone number at a minimum.
Don’t mention anything in the cover letter that isn’t mentioned in your resume and focus on ‘what’s in it for them’ – the employer needs to feel compelled to shortlist you for the job – so give them a reason to do so. Good luck!