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Do I Need a Cover Letter? Are Cover Letters Necessary in 2018? [+Tips]

Natalie Severt
Resume Expert at Zety
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Are cover letters necessary? Do I need a cover letter?

 

You send out dozens of applications to land a job interview. You spend hours tweaking your resume and looking for opportunities.

 

If a cover letter is a waste of time, why bother. It’s 2018. Does anyone even read cover letters anymore, right?

 

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. No worries, though.

 

This article will answer your questions about cover letters:

 

  • Are cover letters always required and do they even matter?
  • Do companies and employers read such letters?
  • Do you have to write a cover letter?

 

This article will also show you a tried and tested way to write cover letters in case you need one.

 

One way to step up your cover letter game is to match your cover letter to your resume. Here’s an example of a matching set made using our cover letter templates:

 

Matching cover letter and resume templates

Sample cover letter for a resume. Pick a template and write your cover letter here.

 

 

 

Want to make sure every cover letter you send lands you an interview? Get our free checklist: 37 Things You Need to Do Before You Send Your Cover Letter.

 

1

Cover Letter or Not?

 

When is a cover letter necessary?

 

A cover letter is required, not just important, in the following cases:

 

  • If the job offer requires a cover letter.
  • If the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter requests one.
  • If you’re applying directly to a person and know their name.
  • If someone has referred you for the position.
  • If you know something about the job and the position.

 

However, cover letters aren’t always necessary. For example, you might not need a cover letter if you’re applying online. Some applicant tracking systems don’t allow candidates to submit them. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry. In all other cases? You better worry!

 

How important is a cover letter?

 

About 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in their decision to hire. Another study on employer preference suggests that 56% want appliacants to attach a cover letter to the resume.

 

Need more data?

 

A CareerBuilder study found that 49% of hr managers consider a covering letter the second best thing to give your resume a boost (number one being customizing your resume.)

 

What does that mean for you?

 

Let’s say that most recruiters don’t read cover letters. But at the same time, half do expect to get one.

 

Strange, right?

 

Think about it this way: Even if recruiters don’t read cover letters, they might want to pass them to the hiring manager or employer.

 

If the company is small, employers read cover letters to vet their candidates. The fewer the applications, the easier it is to focus on each candidate.

 

Plus, companies receive hundreds of resumes for most openings. To get the job done, they might reject resumes that are too long or are missing a cover letter.

 

When not to include a cover letter?

 

Short answer: when the job posting explicitly states you cannot submit a cover letter.

 

Plus, no cover letter is better than a bad cover letter. (But we will show you how to write a short but perfect letter in a moment.)

 

So—

 

Do I need a cover letter?

 

Only 47% of job seekers write cover letters. So, most applicants don’t care for them.

 

Don’t join this crowd. Writing a cover letter is an extra hoop you choose to jump through, sure, but that’s the point. See, an optional cover letter is not optional if you’re serious about the job. Full-time, part-time or an internship—53% of employers think a resume is not enough.

 

So, yes, you have to write a cover letter for your resume. Especially, if you need to explain employment gaps or if you’re changing careers. Read on to find out how to make your cover letter a game-changer.

 

Here’s an example of a cover letter that will show you why it matters—

 

Jane Smith
123 Magnolia Street
Flowerville, Minnesota 78954
213-444-8576
jane.smith@gmail.com

 

February 10, 2018

 

Mr. John Smith
CEO
Bloomingfields Marketing
4587 Iris Street
Flowerville, Minnesota 78954

 

Dear Mr. Smith,

 

I am writing to you out of interest for the position of Marketing Manager that I was told about by Penny Armstrong.

 

I can offer you the skills and experience I’ve gained from three years as a Marketing Manager at Blue Skies Marketing Solutions.

 

My experience with brand management, interdepartmental marketing initiatives, and video marketing techniques should make me ideal for the position. I will also bring to the table my experience managing a team of up to twenty people across different countries.

 

I understand that your new Marketing Manager is in charge of bringing Bloomingfields Marketing up to speed with the digital era. I would love to discuss with you how video marketing and brand management would play into this strategy.

 

Please find my resume attached if you’d like more details. I look forward to speaking with you during an interview. Please feel free to contact me at 213-444-8576 anytime during the day. Otherwise, I will be in touch after a week. Thank you once again for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jane Smith

 

Why is a cover letter necessary?

 

  • It Introduces Jane to the hiring manager via Penny.
  • It illustrates how Jane will add value to the company.
  • It suggests that Jane has solutions for the company.
  • It contains Jane’s contact information and availability.

 

Jane’s cover letter puts everything John Smith could want at his fingertips.

 

right
A short letter with 3 paragraphs. Focus on how you will add value to the company once hired.
wrong
A long love letter to the company. Detail your everlasting devotion and professional prowess.

 

Pro Tip: What if there is no official opening? You will want to send a smart letter of interest that includes different content. You will need to provide a reason for applying to a company with no openings. So, personalization and knowledge of the company are more important in this situation.

 

A short and sweet cover letter how-to will follow. However, you might want to follow up with our extra comprehensive guide: The Best How to Write a Cover Letter Guide on the Web

 

2

Here’s How to Take Your Cover Letter to the Next Level

 

So, should you write a cover letter? Yes.

 

What can you do to take yours to the next level?

 

A cover letter is important for three things:

 

  • Explain how you will bring value to the company.
  • Touch on what’s most important to the hiring manager.
  • Tailor a few skills and achievements to match the desires of the hiring manager.

 

But how do you know what they want? Here comes the best part:

 

It’s all written in the job offer.

 

Unless someone referred you or you know the hiring manager—then you have an insider’s perspective—so go with that.

 

It’s pretty simple. You’ll start by referring to your most recent, relevant job in your first line.

 

Where + Title + How Long

 

right
I can offer you the skills and experience I’ve gained from three years as a Marketing Manager at XXYY.
wrong

I am a Marketing Manager seeking to be a Marketing Manager at your company.

 

Next, highlight a few skills, achievements, or projects. Choose things that will illustrate how you will be a valuable hire. Tailor your answers to the company, individual, and job offer.

 

right

My experience with brand management, interdepartmental marketing initiatives, and video marketing techniques should make me ideal for the position. I will also bring to the table my experience managing a team of up to twenty people across different countries.

wrong

I am great at writing copy, making brochures, and handling external and internal communications. I am proficient at emailing, creating pdfs, and editing text from translators. That’s why I would be the best person for the job.

 

  • Don’t list day-to-day responsibilities, especially if you listed them on your resume. Also, stay away from claiming that you’re the best person for the job. That’s for the hiring manager to decide. Claiming that in your cover letter makes you sound arrogant.

 

Finally, you may want to consider adding a third paragraph that ties up everything. Use it to explain how your experience and skills will translate to success in the new role.

 

right

I understand that your new Marketing Manager is in charge of bringing XXOO up to speed with the digital era. I would love to discuss with you how video marketing and brand management would play into this strategy.

 

  • Why is the company hiring? They may be looking for someone who can offer solutions. If you have an idea of what they may need, pitch it.
wrong

I read somewhere that you like Kung Fu movies. I like Karate. We should discuss.

 

  • Don’t be creepy.

 

Pro Tip: The worst thing that you can do with your cover letter is to repeat your resume. Cover letters matter because they reflect and compliment resumes. Not repeat them.

 

Think you’re ready to send your resume and cover letter? You may want to find out how. Read our guide: How to Email Your Resume to Get More Job Offers (Examples)

 

3

Here’s How to Layout a Professional Cover Letter

 

The cover letter format is the same as it is for most business letters.

 

Here’s an example of a professional cover letter layout from our cover letter builder:

 

A must-have cover letter

Sample cover letter created using Zety. Pick a template and write your cover letter here.

 

To start, align your text to the left and add:

 

  • Your Contact Information
  • The Date
  • The Employer’s Contact Information

 

right

Jane Smith

123 Magnolia Street

Flowerville, Minnesota 78954

213-444-8576

jane.smith@gmail.com

 

February 10, 2018

 

Mr. John Smith

CEO Bloomingfields

4587 Iris Street

Flowerville, Minnesota 78954

wrong

Jane Smith

ilovehotdogs@hotmail.com

 

February 2018

 

CEO Bloomingfields

 

  • Note that you don’t need to include your address, especially if the job is in a different city. Be sure to include a professional email address. Also, be sure to address the letter to the person who will read it.

 

Next, add a greeting.

 

right

Dear John Smith

wrong

To whom it may concern,

 

If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name on the job offer, call the company.

 

If all else fails, write:

 

Dear Hiring Manager,

 

Follow the greeting with:

 

  • The Introduction
  • The Hook (2–3 paragraphs)
  • The Conclusion

 

Your introduction should include a personable introduction to yourself. Also, mention the position for which you’re applying.

 

right

I am writing to you out of interest for the position of Marketing Manager that I was told about by Penny Armstrong.

wrong

My name is Sally. I found your job ad for a Marketing Manager on Monster.com. I want to be a Marketing Manager.

 

Remember to make the introduction personable and interesting. Start with something that will spark the interest of the hiring manager. Got stuck as soon as you typed Dear John? This guide will help you: How to Start a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [20+ Examples]

 

As for the conclusion, consider including:

 

  • A Call to Action—Interview me!
  • Availability
  • Contact Information
  • Reference to Resume
  • Gratitude

 

right

Please find my resume attached if you’d like more details. I look forward to speaking with you during an interview. Please feel free to contact me at 123-456-7788 anytime during the day. Otherwise, I will be in touch after a week. Thank you once again for your time and consideration.

wrong

Thank you for reading. Please call me at 123-456-7788 for an interview.

 

Finish your cover letter with a closing salutation and your name.

 

Sincerely,

Jane Smith

 

Pro Tip: For business and cover letters, there are several appropriate closing salutations. You can use “Sincerely,” “Regards,” “Yours Truly,” and “Yours Sincerely.” It’s up to you.

 

By the way, there is a secret weapon that works wonders when ending a cover letter. Most employers will stop and think, Ah, interesting!—even if they don’t read the whole thing. Learn how to seal the deal from this guide: How to End a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [+20 Examples]

 

Now, about your important cover letter—

 

You’re almost done. However, there’s one thing even candidates with eye-candy resumes get wrong.

 

It’s their cover letter template.

 

How so? They usually just write their cover letter in MS Word and call it a day.

 

But, just look at this matching cover letter and resume set. Notice how professional and balanced it looks.

 

Now that’s a polished application—

 

cover letter and resume template

Matching cover letter and resume set. Pick a template and write your cover letter here.

 

Ready for that new dream job?

 

Key Takeaway

 

Yes, many recruiters don’t read cover letters. And yes, there is a good chance that your hiring manager won’t read it. Remember this:

 

  • So, do you need a cover letter? Yes, you do.
  • But not just any old cover letter. You want the perfect cover letter.
  • It’s always important to include a cover letter like that with your application and use it to explain things your resume might miss. Even if you choose to write a short, simple one.
  • A well-written cover letter can be the thing that lands you the job.

 

Don’t miss out. Give the hiring manager what they need. Send that cover letter!

 

Have you ever impressed the employer with your letter so much they simply had to meet you? Tell us your story in the comments. We would love to learn what you think!

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Author
Natalie Severt
Natalie is a writer at Zety. She loves writing about resumes and eating tacos more than life itself. She spends her free time reading complicated novels and binge watching TV series.