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Career Development Matt Sedlar

Do I Need a Cover Letter?

Your cover letter showcases additional information about your skills and relevant experience and can be a major factor in separating you from the pack and deciding whether you get an interview or not.

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a future employer's office and introduce yourself? You could tell them why you think you are the perfect fit for their team, why you want the position, how you possess the required skills and describe your professional experiences in a way that won’t fit on your resume.

That is why your cover letter is so important. It’s your best way of introducing yourself before an interview!

Your cover letter showcases additional information about your skills and relevant experience and can be a major factor in separating you from the pack and deciding whether you get an interview or not.  

Cover letters are not always required. If a job posting specifically says not to submit one, then don’t. However, if it is not mentioned or made optional, I highly recommend submitting one with your resume. The extra time and effort will help you get noticed and creating a cover letter unique to each position will give your application an added boost.

Here’s some advice for what to include in your letter to make it the best introduction of you that it can be:

Making the Most of A Single Page

Today, many employers only look at a resume for 6-7 seconds so your cover letter is the real place where you can wow them. It is best to still keep your cover letter limited to a single page and only a few paragraphs since hiring managers will quickly review your letter before going to your resume.

Within the cover letter, you will explain why you are the ideal candidate for the position and will showcase the skills and qualifications you bring to the potential role and employer. In addition, you will demonstrate your interest in the job and show the potential employer that you went the extra distance to submit a cover letter when it wasn’t required.

Add in Details

There are certain reasons why including a cover letter for each job is important. Not only can this document help you stand out from your competition, but it also allows you to include details that are not on your resume.

One specific example of this is if you were looking to relocate and find a position in a different city or state.  You wouldn’t include this type of information on your resume, however, it is perfectly fine if you include this within the cover letter. Therefore, an employer knows you are relocating instead of wondering why you are interested in a position in another state.

You can also explain the nuances of a specific project. You can provide examples and skills you have obtained in your previous experience, whereas you wouldn’t include this on your resume.

Explain Unanswered Questions

A cover letter is a great opportunity to explain any gaps in your employment. You may have been in school completing an advanced degree or taking personal time. If you worked two jobs at the same time or worked while in school, you can also briefly talk about that in your letter.

Sometimes experience may come in the form of a volunteer experience. You may want to describe this in case a hiring manager wonders why a specific job trait is not included in your work experience.

Most times, the cover letter is the first document an employer will see.  Therefore, you want to make sure to express your interest in the position and clearly state the skills and qualifications you bring to the role. The cover letter could be the deciding factor of what gets you to the next step of the interview process. Motivation and dedication are very important aspects of a job search, and including this one document, it can make all your hard work pay off.             

Matt Sedlar is a senior career development coach at Herzing University for the past nine years.  He has knowledge and expertise in creating job search documents, including cover letters.

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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