Since the dawn of time, when submitting a resume to a company for a job, it was common practice to include a cover letter. As we all know, times change, and I get asked very often, “Do I need to submit a cover letter with my resume?” Nowadays, the answer is, “Maybe.”

If you are applying for a job within the education market, including colleges and universities, the answer is, “Yes.” In this environment, the employer wants to see a sample of your writing skills because so much of what you would do depends on written communication. So, in this situation, yes, submit one.

In the business world, the answer is different. Here it fully depends on what the employer is asking for. Most of the online applications these days do not require a cover letter. In these cases, it is perfectly acceptable to submit your resume without one. In many other instances, your letter is often not read by anyone, since resumes go through ATS (Applicant Tracking Software). The cover letter is usually separated out and not read. It is also unlikely that it will ever make it to the actual hiring manager.

So, rule of thumb, in education, submit a resume. In business, only if the application is specifically asking for it.

If I submit a cover letter, what should I put in it?

  1. Your contact information, including your name, address, phone number, email address and LinkedIn profile URL.
  2. A short paragraph about the positions you have held and the education you bring to the table. When writing this, make sure the positions and titles you cite align well with the job you are applying for. Synergy between your background and the open position is vital.
  3. Qualifications and expertise that make you well-suited for the specific job. Using the open job description, tailor your letter to address some of the specific tasks, goals and qualifications the employer is looking for. Your resume will do a lot of the talking here, so make the cover letter a bit more specific and targeted. Let it show why you are uniquely qualified.
  4. Next, show the reader what you have done in your career and how it will relate to the position. Allow your personality to come through here. Are you creative, innovative, positive, enthusiastic? Are you a leader? If so, what type? Try to tailor this to match the culture and attitudes expressed in the job posting.
  5. Close with a thank you and restated interest in joining the team.

Your cover letter should never be more than one page. This is an extension of the entire hiring process. Employers are looking for people who are focused, efficient, work quickly and accomplish a lot. Writing two pages about why they should hire you will get your resume thrown in the circular file.

If you do submit a cover letter, follow the above guidelines. If the job posting does not specifically ask for a cover letter, then do not worry about submitting one.

If you need additional help with your cover letter or resume, contact me.

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