There was a time when sending a cover letter with a resume was standard practice. Technology and a larger number of job applicants have changed this practice over the years. There is now a question about whether cover letters are necessary. There is even a split in opinions between professional hiring managers about the need for cover letters. Whether or not a cover letter is needed with a resume really depends on the exact situation.
Always Honor Specific Employer Requests
The most important rule is to always honor any specific requests from the employer. Some employers are adamant about requiring cover letters with a resume. This means a good cover letter should be sent no matter how clear or simple the job requirements. A growing number of employers are stating that resumes should not be included. These employers should never receive a cover letter from applicants. Attempting to include a cover letter after a request not to will only cause the employer to think the applicant cannot follow instructions.
Online Applications Might Not Allow Cover Letters
Many employers are now requiring individuals to fill out applications online through a standardized form. This is done to save time and make the process more efficient. If the form does not have a specific field or option to include a cover letter, then it should be omitted completely. Some people attempt to send follow-up emails or messages later that contain a cover letter or equivalent. This should not be done since the employers are not likely to match the email with the resume or read it at all.
Show Good Writing and Communications Skills
Cover letters should be submitted if part of the position relies on good writing and communications skills. Cover letters are a perfect opportunity to show an employer that an applicant has the ability to craft a clear, structured and coherent document using proper spelling and grammar. A good cover letter that addresses the needs of the employer and the qualifications of the applicant can make a large difference when hiring decisions are being made.
A Summary of Skills Can Replace a Cover Letter
A cover letter can be omitted if the resume being sent is structured in a way that makes additional explanations unnecessary. An increasingly popular format for resumes is to include a summary of skills at the very top just below the name and contact information. This is a list of up to five brief and specific qualifications that the applicant has matching the position. Employers like this format because it allows a fast assessment of the applicant in just a few seconds while looking at the resume.
Cover Letters Create a Narrative
Some job positions are very complex and require many skills from different fields. Additionally, some resumes are equally complex and might leave a hiring manager with many questions about the qualifications of the applicant. These are times when a cover letter will help. A cover letter allows the applicant to create a narrative that helps to explain qualifications or unusual elements on a resume. A brief and consistent narrative can give employers a better understanding of the qualifications of the applicant.
Generic Letters Do Not Help
Some people who are applying for jobs simply create a generic cover letter that does not really say anything specific about the position. Employers see these all the time and can usually identify cover letters made from generic templates. These cover letters can often be omitted. They do not provide any information that is not listed on the resume. Sending a generic cover letter could actually be detrimental to an application because employers will waste time reading through a largely irrelevant document.
Cover Letters Can Express Personality
One final reason to include a cover letter with a resume is if personality is important in the position. Many companies today are searching for individuals who match a specific corporate culture. Creative positions might want employees who are unique and who think differently. An expressive cover letter gives applicants a chance to really show some personality to an employer. It is important to remain professional while expressing personality in a cover letter so that employers understand the applicant takes the job seriously.