On a recent phone interview for a job, I was talking to a communications director who was hiring for an open position on her team. She started off our conversation by thanking me for including a cover letter and mentioning how valuable it was to her decision to advance me to the phone interview round.
“You’re welcome? I was happy to do so?” I replied. Not my most polished line in an interview, but honestly I was a little surprised — hadn’t everyone included a cover letter? Wasn’t that a given? Now, mine wasn’t pink or scented, but I hadn’t thought it was anything special.
To this communications director, however, the cover letter was special. Two reasons:
- Beyond my top-level achievements highlighted on my resume, my cover told her how I was the exact fit she was looking for in her open position. In the cover letter, I’d tied the responsibilities in her job description to my previous experience to show that I’d dealt with similar challenges before and knew how to create successful outcomes.
- It already showed that I go above and beyond because I included a cover letter even though it wasn’t required.
Tip: If you treat your cover letter correctly, you’re adapting it to fit each job you apply to. Each job is going to have slightly different responsibilities, and that means you tailor your resume to tell an appropriate story that shows off exactly why you’re the perfect fit and how you’ve done your research on the company.
Want to give yourself an edge when applying to jobs? Here are 3 reasons to include a cover letter with every job you apply to, even if it’s not required:
Most people don’t.
This continues to confound me, but a lot of people just include a resume when they send in a job application. The whole point of sending in a job application is to stand out. We all hear how HR and hiring managers can receive dozens of applications for a single job. Do you really expect these busy people to spend all day parsing through tons of resumes to determine who should move on to a phone interview or next step? Or, you could make it easy for them and use your cover letter to show exactly why you’re the best fit for the role.
I know some people say that cover letters are futile and people don’t read them. While that may be true sometimes, you literally have nothing to lose by including a cover letter. If anything, it’s going to help you stand out because it’s a step many people choose to skip. And when applying to a job, you need all the edge you can get, right?
You can sell yourself by explaining exactly how you’ll be successful in the role.
Resumes are wonderful tools to highlight your biggest and best projects and accomplishments, but if you only submit a resume, you leave it open to HR or the hiring manager to understand exactly how the items on your resume will translate into success in their open role.
Don’t leave the guesswork in their hands. Your cover letter can spell out exactly how you’ll use your skills to achieve success in this role, how your previous work lends perfectly to the new responsibilities in this role, and why you (and you alone!) are the best person for the job.
The trick is to get specific in the cover letter by expanding on one of the responsibilities in the job description and showing exactly how you’ve previously and successfully dealt with a similar challenge. More on this in my cover letter ebook here.
You show you’ve done your research on the company and/or the hiring manager.
While a resume is all about you, a cover letter is a chance to show that you understand the company you’re applying to. You can talk about why you’re attracted to work there (it could be the mission, the people or the reputation the company has) and why this company would be an exciting place for you to join at this stage in your career.
You can go the extra step and research who the hiring manager is for the role (i.e., who the job will report to) and address the cover letter specifically to them. Again, this is a way for you to stand out among even those who may contribute a cover letter but address it “to whom it may concern.”