The question of cover letters one asked since I started in the career industry.
- When do you use one?
- What are they?
- Do I use one at all?
To clarify, I asked my colleague, Dawn Bugni from The Write Solution to join us to help list and talk about the confusing definitions and misconceptions of cover letters:
1. → That’s a sheet you put on the top with your name on it, right?
2. → Every cover letter is read, 100% of the time, in the order intended by the sender — before the resume. WRONG (from Dawn Bugni)
3. → Cover letters tell the employer what you want from them and when done correctly, is filled with “I, me, my” statements. WRONG (from Dawn Bugni)
4. → Cover letters are a regurgitation of resume content or your resume in narrative form. The reader wants to read the same info twice. WRONG. (from Dawn Bugni)
5. → A cover letter is optional. WRONG. (Unless the posting specifically states “No cover letters”. Then follow directions.) (from Dawn Bugni)
6. → Can you just do generic cover letters that I can slap on the top of my resume for everyone? You know one like this:
It is written without targeting the position at all. You have no idea what specifically the job seeker is looking for in a position.
A cover letter is never a blanket. It is a sales tool that from the start lets the reader know why you are sending your resume to them. (From Dawn Bugni)
You are selling YOU! You are the product.
Here’s a snapshot of a cover letter start for one of my recent clients.
Essentially, cover letters are sales tools to help you convey your value to the employer for the specific job.
- The resume does that too but you generally don’t have to fine-tune the resume to meet the exact specifications of each position. The cover letter does that for you.
- Like a resume, the cover letter needs to portray value, speak about how your accomplishments will transition to the needs of the company, and solve the company’s “pain”.
This post is just the tip of the iceberg but it should help to get you thinking about what the job of a cover letter is and why you need one. Always think target and selling when you are planning to write a cover letter which will help you be on the right page as you write.