Anyone who has ever searched for a job at least once has probably asked themselves “do I need a cover letter” during the job-seeking process.
While some recruiters believe cover letters are outdated due to modern recruiting techniques, others think that these should accompany resumes to complete the story of candidates’ professional backgrounds.
To resolve the dilemma once and for all, we’ve prepared a practical guide on when a cover letter is or isn’t necessary. Keep reading to find answers!
Cover letters used to be an integral part of a job application. Today, many recruiters deem them obsolete, but others still expect to receive them along with a candidate’s resume.
You shouldn’t submit a cover letter if you’re not instructed to do so, if you are short on time, or if there isn’t a specifically designated option for it.
Likewise, if there are clear-cut instructions that a cover letter is mandatory or you want to elaborate on specific pieces of information, do include a cover letter in your application.
Do I Need a Cover Letter for a Resume?
Yes—you should submit a cover letter alongside your resume when applying for a job, and there are several reasons for that.
The key purpose of a cover letter is to help recruiters get to know you better. Here, you can elaborate on your professional background and the achievements you made in previous positions and mention accomplishments you haven’t listed in your resume. This can set you apart from other candidates with similar work experience and help you get the job.
Sending a cover letter indicates that you’re ready to take the initiative and put in extra effort. Researching and writing a tailored cover letter takes a while. So, by making time to craft a compelling one, you also demonstrate that you’re not only eager to get a role but that you’ll also be committed to it.
The truth is that recruiters and hiring managers don’t read all the cover letters they receive; in fact, 74% of hiring professionals never do that. Yet, failing to submit a cover letter when it’s clearly highlighted that you should do so will only show that you don’t follow the instructions properly. Ultimately, your application will be discarded.
3 Scenarios When You Don’t Need a Cover Letter
Here are some scenarios when you don’t need to send a cover letter:
#1. It Is Not a Requirement
There will be instances when you’re clearly instructed not to send a cover letter along with your resume. Failing to follow the instructions and doing so regardless of the directives will not earn you bonus points for dedication.
On the contrary, it will just indicate that you don’t pay attention to details and instructions or that you deliberately refuse to follow them. Needless to say, you will be considered an unsuitable candidate, and your application will end up being rejected.
#2. You’re Short on Time
If you don’t have much time to tailor your cover letter for the position you’re applying to, it’s much better not to submit it at all than to send a poor one. By poor, we imply a generic, one-size-fits-all cover letter template, or even worse, AI-generated cover letter examples you can find all over the internet.
Such documents are bad, and recruiters warn against them. They also imply that you didn’t want to bother to research the company or personalize your cover letter. This further shows that you are lazy and not interested enough in the position, which you definitely don’t want.
#3. There is No Space on the Application Form
If you are applying for a position via an application form and there isn’t room to attach a cover letter, let alone write it, it’s obvious that it’s not needed for that role.
Surely, you can figure out how and to whom to send it by researching the company or the job ad. However, if you’re not instructed to do so and no place was provided for this purpose, you should probably skip it altogether.
When You Should Definitely Submit a Cover Letter
Here’s when you should definitely submit a cover letter:
#1. There is Something Important to Mention
Besides introducing you as a candidate to hiring professionals, a cover letter allows you to add information you haven’t had a chance to mention in your resume due to its limited length.
Therefore, it gives you a perfect opportunity to explain the following situations in detail:
You’re ready to relocate
You want to change careers
You have a gap in your employment
You have no experience
You want to highlight specific skills and achievements
Remember, this document is not just a carbon copy of your resume. Hence, you should not just repeat the professional history or skills you listed in your resume.
#2. To Mention Personal Referrals
A cover letter is a perfect place to acknowledge your referrals, i.e., individuals who personally referred you to the company. Having a referral may give bonus points to your job application since you have someone at the company who can vouch for you and help you get noticed.
Mention the referral in the initial paragraph of the cover letter. This way, you will let a recruiter or hiring manager know who has referred you to the job and potentially spike their interest from the get-go.
#3. You Have a Connection to the Company
Similarly to referrals, any connections or links to the company should be included in a cover letter. Therefore, if you have completed an internship in it or you’re acquainted with hiring or any other managers, don’t hesitate to list it.
Mention upfront how you’re linked to that person. It will not only show a recruiter or hiring professional reading the cover letter that you’re transparent, but it may also do good for your application.
6 Expert Strategies for Writing an Ideal Cover Letter
Now that you know what a cover letter is and when it should be submitted, it’s time to craft one. Here are some tips and strategies for creating a compelling cover letter:
Cover Letter Writing Tips
Be concise. A cover letter should be focused on your achievements, hard and soft skills, and, most importantly, how these can help the hiring company grow. For those who wonder how long a cover letter should be, the answer is 250–400 words.
Go for action words. To make your accomplishments noticeable, stick to action verbs. Avoid phrases such as “I was in charge of” or “I was responsible for.” Replace them with action verbs like “coordinated,” “managed,” “organized,” etc.
Proofread your letter. Before you send your cover letter, check if there are any spelling or grammar mistakes. It needs to be completely error-free; otherwise, you may be rejected, as is the case with 58% of cover letters that have typos.
Avoid cliches. Using expressions such as “exquisite team leader,” “effective team player,” or “excellent communicator” may sound nice but won’t add value to your cover letter. Support them with specific achievements from your experience, however, and the final result will be completely different.
Follow instructions. If an employer has listed specific requirements or instructions on how to create and send a cover letter, follow them. Failing to act as instructed may imply that you don’t pay attention to details and are not a good fit for the company.
Tailor your cover letter to the specific position you’re applying for. Research the company and job advertisement, pay attention to the required skills and qualifications, and list them in your resume. Again, focus on how they can help the company prosper.
Only a few decades ago, cover letters used to be mandatory for job applications. Today, it is not the case, and many candidates keep wondering “do I need a cover letter” whenever they are about to apply for a job.
The answer to this question depends on several factors. Sometimes, you will have to submit a cover letter, particularly if you’re instructed to do so. Other times, you won't, and doing so may have not-so-positive consequences. The good news is—now that you’re aware of both scenarios, you won’t be confused about whether the cover letter is necessary or not.
Do I Need a Cover Letter FAQ
#1. Do I need a cover letter for an entry-level position?
Yes, cover letters can be a handy tool for recent graduates or professionals who are changing careers and don’t have any relevant experience. They can use a cover letter to pitch themselves by highlighting their qualifications and enthusiasm for the role.
#2. Do I need a cover letter for a part-time job?
Yes, you need a cover letter regardless of whether you’re applying for a full-time or part-time position. By submitting a well-crafted cover letter, you’re letting an employer know that you’re really interested in the position and will take it seriously.
#3. Do I need a cover letter when applying online?
Yes, you’ll probably need a cover letter when you’re applying for a job online, given that most applications today are online. When applying for a job, you’ll see a button or a room specifically designated for attaching or writing the cover letter, so don’t ignore it.
#4. Do I need a cover letter for an internal job posting?
Yes, a cover letter is significant and necessary when you’re applying for an internal position. No matter if you’re hoping for a promotion or seeking a completely different role, a cover letter serves to remind stakeholders of your accomplishments and contributions to the company.