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What is a Cover Letter for a Job? Purpose of a Cover Letter

What is a Cover Letter for a Job? Purpose of a Cover Letter

What is a cover letter? Unnecessary? A waste of time? Answer, neither. It’s a job-hunting must-have. Discover what a cover letter is and what it can do for you.

Chances are we all know what a CV is. But when it comes to cover letters it isn’t exactly clear. Think about it. Just what is a cover letter for a job exactly? And what do they do?


For a start, they’re probably the most underestimated part of the job application process. Far from being a relic of the past, they’re still an essential weapon in your job-hunting armoury. And you can’t write one effectively unless you know what it is.


So let’s jump right in and discover what is a cover letter for a job application and why it’s so important.


Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your CV. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.


Create your cover letter now


Sample Cover Letter for a CV—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.


And once you know what a cover letter is you can learn how to write one with our expert guides:


Sample Cover Letter for a CV


Richard Stein

17 Old York Road



0777 777 7777


4th June 2020


Harriet Eccleston

General Manager

Le Rosbif et Grenouille

101 Chelsea High Road




Dear Ms Eccleston,


As a passionate advocate for modern European cuisine crafted from sustainable local ingredients I was excited to see an opening for a Head Chef at Le Rosbif. Your dedication to culinary excellence and superlative customer service is legendary both in London and beyond. I am confident that my decade of experience in haute cuisine will help you achieve new levels of success.


As head chef at Le Chat Noir I pioneered the use of local ingredients, including vegetables grown in London-based hydroponics pods. This reduced our carbon footprint by an estimated 20% and earned plaudits from customers and critics alike. My philosophy of nose-to-tail cuisine also created a media buzz, whilst making savings of 30% over more conventional ingredients, which attracted a price premium.


As head chef I personally mentored five Sous Chefs during my time at Le Chat, four of whom went on to head their own kitchen teams, including two who won Michelin stars. I’d love the opportunity to mentor talent such as this at Le Rosbif.


Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to consider my application. Please do contact me at your convenience, so we can discuss this opportunity further.


Yours sincerely, 


Richard Stein


What is a Cover Letter?

Cover letters are one of the most hotly debated topics in recruitment. The main point of contention being, are they even needed anymore? The latest study revealed some interesting results. It focused on tech companies, but bear in mind that these are the most cutting edge and forward-thinking employers. If they still think cover letters are important you can be sure that more conservative employers will too.


The percentage of tech companies demanding a cover letter:

  • Tech giants: 48%
  • Medium-sized tech companies: 55%
  • Fast-growing startups: 65%


Overall, 56% of tech companies had a specific cover letter field in their online application process. Even in the most modern job sector, more than half of employers demand a cover letter. So when we ask what is a cover letter, ‘unnecessary’ is the wrong answer. And that’s not the only proof. Here are some more cover letter statistics.

  • 49% of hiring managers pay more attention to CVs that are accompanied by cover letters.
  • 53% of employers consider cover letters a must-have. Also revealing that 70% of employers prefer a cover letter length of half a page or less.


So if you neglect a cover letter, you effectively cut your chances of success in half. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s not a risk worth taking.

Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter: Professional UK Examples

What Is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?


Now let’s break it down further, when considering what is a cover letter for a job application it’s important to know its purpose.


1. A Cover Letter Is the Best Way to Stand out 


Figures for 2019 showed that, depending on the industry, you’re looking at anything from 20–50 applicants per job vacancy. And that’s sure to increase as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic sets in. So you need to do everything you can to stand out from the competition.

Read more: What to Include in a Cover Letter

2. A Cover Letter Lets You Put Some Meat on the Bones of Your CV


After all, you should only have a one or two page CV, so your space is limited. Your cover letter lets you give the employer more insights into who you are as a candidate. It also lets you add some more key accomplishments that show your value as a potential employee. 


That chance to give more details also lets you deal with aspects of your CV that are less appealing, like gaps in your employment history. A convincing explanation in your cover letter will go a long way to reassuring a worried hiring manager.

Read more: How to Format a Cover Letter

3. It Lets You Show Passion and Commitment for the Job You’re Applying 


The hiring manager can find out why you want this job with this company. By researching the role and the company and targeting your skills to its needs, you show commitment. You’ve taken the time and effort to craft a tailored cover letter, and in the employer’s eyes, this makes you a winning prospect.


And it also showcases your written communication skills. That’s a big win too because 75% of managers want employees with good writing proficiency.

Pro Tip: A cover letter doesn’t just have to be for a specific job vacancy. You can use it to look for jobs that aren’t even advertised. It’s called a speculative cover letter and it opens up incredible opportunities. It’s been estimated that 75% of jobs are filled without ever being advertised.

Key Takeaway


Here’s a recap of what is a cover letter for a job.

  • A cover letter is a document that accompanies your CV and gives more details about why you’re the best candidate.
  • A cover letter for your CV serves many purposes, including helping you stand out and showing passion and commitment for the job you’re applying for.
  • Not all employers demand a cover letter, but at least half of them do. Forgetting a cover letter slashes your chances of success.


When making a CV in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your CV here.

When you’re done, Zety’s CV builder will score your CV and tell you exactly how to make it better.


Thanks for reading. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about what is a cover letter when applying for a job please ask in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Jacques Buffett, CPRW
Jacques, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), is a career expert who has published almost 200 articles on Zety. His insights and advice have been published by LinkedIn, Forbes, MSN, Yahoo!, Business Insider, AOL, U.S. News, and other top news outlets. He also has extensive professional experience in people management and recruitment.

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