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Are Cover Letters Still Needed?

When you’re looking for new opportunities, it’s common to wonder if a cover letter is a necessary part of an application. After all, writing a cover letter takes time and effort. Since a job search is often a cumbersome undertaking, it may seem like not creating cover letters is a great way to streamline the process.

However, not submitting a cover letter can work against you. If you’re wondering whether cover letters are still needed during a job search, here’s why you should submit one.

Why You Should Write a Cover Letter

A Cover Letter Might Be Requested (or Expected)

Many hiring managers list a cover letter as a required component of an application. In this case, not submitting one can mean you didn’t follow the directions, which could give the hiring manager doubts about you as a candidate.

However, even if it isn’t requested, that doesn’t mean the hiring manager doesn’t expect to see one. Additionally, some hiring managers in this category may view candidates that do send in a cover letter as more enthusiastic and detail-oriented, which could help separate you from the pack.

An Opportunity to Discuss Points That Can’t Go on a Resume

A cover letter doesn’t have the same restrictions as a resume, so it gives you a chance to discuss points that you can’t bring up otherwise. For instance, you can highlight a relevant achievement with greater detail or present a thorough employee value proposition. Similarly, you can use a cover letter to explain a gap in your resume. It’s also a helpful tool if you’re changing careers and want to show that you have the right transferable skills to succeed.

Finally, a cover letter lets you showcase your writing skills. For roles where having strong skills in that area is critical, it could show the hiring manager that you have what it takes to excel.

A Chance to Integrate More Keywords into Your Application

When you’re creating a cover letter, you can integrate critical keywords that you find in the job description. Whether the application is being reviewed initially by an automated screening technology or a person, this works in your favor. It can help you showcase that you’re an excellent fit for the job by diving into those must-have capabilities and discussing relevant examples, which could make you look like a more promising match than a resume alone.

When You Shouldn’t Send a Cover Letter

While submitting a cover letter with your resume is typically a smart move, there are a few situations where sending one isn’t the best idea. First, if the job announcement says explicitly not to include a cover letter with your resume, then sending a cover letter works against you. The hiring manager will likely interpret it as a lack of ability to follow directions. As a result, you’re better off following the instructions and not including one.

Second, if you’re submitting a resume through an online application process and there isn’t a spot to include a cover letter, then writing one isn’t necessary. That’s mainly because there isn’t a way to submit it. If you try to integrate it with your resume, there’s a chance that any automated screening technologies will incorrectly identify your cover letter as your resume, and that could cause it to improperly assess what you bring to the table.

However, beyond the scenarios above, sending a cover letter is generally the best choice.

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