Understanding the importance of cover letters for career success
A cover letter is an important tool for selling yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager and staying top-of-mind with them. If you take the time to write a quality cover letter to accompany your resume, you are demonstrating to the employer your passion for their position, which can help you stand out from candidates whose applications didn't include one.
Understanding the importance of cover letters in the hiring process can help you market your skills more effectively and give your chances of getting the role a significant boost. Here, we outline reasons to include a cover letter in your application, offer tips for writing cover letters, and provide an example cover letter to help you practice.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document you submit with your resume when applying for a job. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself professionally to the recruiter or employer. It comprises a summary of your professional qualifications, achievements, and other personal qualities that qualify you for the role.
When well written, a cover letter can vastly increase your chances of getting hired because it sets you apart from candidates who didn’t include the document in their application. By writing a cover letter, the hiring manager perceives you as a person who is serious about working for their company, and this can make them to give your candidacy more priority when it’s time to hire.
Reasons why a cover letter is important
Regardless of the position you are applying for, supporting your resume with a cover letter can boost your chances of landing a job. Here are some reasons why cover letters are important:
One of the most important functions of a cover letter is that it allows you to make a good first impression on the employer. A well-written cover letter that highlights your best role-specific strengths can position you as an outstanding candidate among equally qualified applicants.
Because the cover letter emphasizes your core competencies, it does an excellent job of marketing your skills and gaining the hiring manager’s attention, increasing the chances of getting the role.
Unlike a resume that is space-constrained, a cover letter allows you to elaborate your personality traits. You can use it to demonstrate several positive personal qualities such as leadership, self-motivation, and other traits that will add value to the company. Writing a cover letter also allows you to further impress upon the reader the reasons you are the most qualified candidate for the role.
A cover letter can also add context to your application. It provides the opportunity to elaborate on your previous roles, successes and challenges, and reasons for seeking new opportunities. These give the reader insights into your motivation and can positively influence your ability to progress to the next stage of the selection process.
Demonstrate suitability for the role
A cover letter allows you to demonstrate to the employer how your role-relevant skills, achievements, and experience will translate to results when hired. You can use successes from previous roles to help the reader visualize you have the knowledge and workplace experience to perform effectively if hired.
Showcase passion for the role
The mere exercise of writing a cover letter shows you have a strong interest to work in an organization. Writing a powerful letter that demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the role and the employer’s needs helps you stand out from the crowd and shows you will likely have a positive impact on the company.
Build relationship with the employer
A compelling cover letter helps the employer understand your personality, professional accomplishments, and motivations, making it a powerful tool for building relationships. It lets you demonstrate how your career goals align with the company’s interests and your ambitions for the organization when employed. Help the reader appreciate your unique combination of skills, experience, and personality traits by highlighting your most important accomplishments and how you will leverage them to make the position and the company a better place.
Showcase writing skills
A well-written cover letter can also show the employer you have impeccable writing skills. In most positions, employers value the ability to articulate your thoughts and put them down in coherent and easily understandable writing. It shows you have excellent communication skills, which are essential for effective workplace performance.
Demonstrate ability to follow instructions
Writing a concise and well-thought out cover letter shows an employer you can follow instructions. A good cover letter will not only showcase your writing skills but also show you understand the job requirements and the employer’s needs.
How to write an effective cover letter
Here are tips for writing a winning cover letter that will make a powerful impression on hiring managers and increase the likelihood of progressing in the selection process:
Study the job description
Going through the job description will give you almost all the information you need to create a compelling cover letter. The job description typically provides the qualifications, skills, experience, and personality traits required for the role. It will usually also include the instructions for applying, documents, and deadline for application.
Before writing a cover letter, it is vital to perform an in-depth research into the role and the employer’s needs. Doing this will help you create a letter that is relevant to the job, and the company’s distinct culture, values, and industry. Check the employer’s website, past recruitment materials, employee reviews, social media handles, and industry communication materials for more insights into their operations and employee expectations.
Make it personal
Write a personalized cover letter for each job application. If you know the hiring manager, address the cover letter to them personally. You can get their contact details through the company website or professional profiles on various social media platforms. Crafting an original cover letter that demonstrates a deep understanding of the role and the employer shows you are serious about the role and can help you stand out from less-thorough candidates.
Make it captivating
Start your cover letter with a powerful sentence that will motivate the recipient to continue reading. Catch their attention by immediately emphasizing your best-selling points and the traits that make you the ideal fit for the position. Include achievements from previous roles to create a connection with the company’s roles and your ability to solve their problems.
Include contact details
It is important to include your name, email address, and phone number if you are submitting a hard copy cover letter to make it easier for the employer to reach you. If you are emailing the cover letter, you can still include your professional online profile under your signature.
Incorporate job-specific keywords
Incorporate some keywords in the job description in your cover letter, especially if the document will pass through an applicant tracking software (ATS). However, it is not advisable to stuff a cover letter with keywords-include just the right amount to scale the ATS.
Include a professional close and signoff
At the end of the letter, close with a call to action that will motivate the reader to take action. Finish with a formal close such as “Sincerely” or “Best regards” and sign off with your name (for email) or signature (for hard copy).
Proofread and format before submission
Once you’ve drafted your cover letter, go over it a few times to check for spelling, grammar, and structural errors. Proofread, edit and double-check the address of the recipient and any other information regarding the role, the employer, and your previous roles. Format the document properly, using the right margins, a professionally acceptable font and font size, and the right length.
Example cover letter
Here is an example of a cover letter you can use for practice when writing your own:
I am applying for the position of HR Assistant Manager recently advertised by your company. With over three years of experience in recruitment, employee development, payroll management, and other human resources management areas, I would make an ideal fit for Carrielli Consults.
I have worked in every aspect of human resources management for the past four years. During that time, I have supervised the selection and hiring process of over 100 entry, middle, and senior level employees.
Working as a HR Assistant with Beldon Corporation, I handled payroll management, onboarded new employees, and worked with resource organizations to create training plans and employee job development programs. I have an in-depth understanding of state and federal labor laws, and I have helped my organization to resolve over 15 employee-management conflicts.
Over the years, I have trained more than 20 HR administrative assistants, created workflows for employees, managed benefits and bonuses, and efficiently oversaw employee-employer relationships for improved productivity and efficiency. I am looking for new challenges, and I believe my skills and experience will be of immense benefit to your organization.
I would appreciate the opportunity to work with a successful company like yours. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any information or document you may need during the selection process.
Whether you are applying for a new generation company or an organization with a traditional culture, the importance of cover letters in the hiring process cannot be overemphasized. Learn how to write powerful, personalized cover letters that will help you stand out from other candidates and improve your chances of getting your dream job.