Students ask CPCC Career Services’ counselors this question all the time. As the job search moves through the electronic age where resumes are scanned, emailed and even tweeted, questioning a cover letter’s relevance is understandable.
The answer? Cover letters are as relevant as you want your application to be. Unless the online application doesn’t give you the opportunity to send a cover letter, or an employer specifically requests that you not send one, take the time to write an effective marketing pitch for why you’re the best candidate for an interview. After all, that’s what a cover letter is.
Cover letters set you apart from other applicants
“Just do it.” A three-word slogan that sets Nike’s brand apart from other sports apparel companies. What information from your background sets you apart from other applicants? The resume doesn’t allow you the space to discuss details. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to expand on a specific example from your background that is particularly relevant to the job. When job searching, your professional experience is your brand and the cover letter is a marketing tool for promoting it.
Cover letters show your personality
Let’s face it; resumes are dry, fact-based and formal documents that leave little if any room for personality. That’s where the cover letter comes in, giving an employer a glimpse of who you are by going beyond brief descriptions of job duties and lists of qualifications. Make a connection between you and the employer or you and the company. Make this letter professionally meaningful. When writing a cover letter, it’s important to continue following resume guidelines that suggest refraining from irrelevant personal information. But the cover letter is a chance to provide details about your professional experience that helps the employer picture you working in the job.
Cover letters tell a story
Are you returning to the world of work after being a stay-at-home parent for 10 years? Were you downsized from a job and decided to return to school? Did you change careers? A resume doesn’t give job applicants the chance to answer questions like these that provide insight into a person’s work history as it relates to their life story. Cover letters can include information that would appear out of place on a resume. Even when tailoring a resume to a specific job opening, applicants often feel their the document doesn’t convey how strongly their qualifications match the employer’s needs. That’s where the cover letter comes into play.
Don’t forget to follow cover letter guidelines that include formatting and topic suggestions. Above all else, don’t forget to send the cover letter. It’s true; the employer may not even read it. But why take the chance that they might have wanted to?