Should you always send a cover letter?
Do you always have to submit a cover letter, or can you skip it? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Cover letters could give you an advantage.
You found an exciting new job posting and are getting ready to submit your resume, but what about a cover letter? Is it always necessary to spend time writing a cover letter, or are there times you can get away without one? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Pro: Cover letters can set you apart
“Skip the cover letter, and you miss out on an opportunity to sell yourself,” says Evelyn Salvador, author of Step-by-Step Cover Letters: Build a Cover Letter in 10 Easy Steps Using Personal Branding and principal of Creative Image Builders, a resume-development and career-coaching firm in Coram, New York.
Sending a cover letter along with a resume helps you build your brand the same way an advertising company promotes a product’s brand. “A well-defined brand wins interviews, maximizes salary potential and puts job seekers in the top 2 percent of candidates considered for positions,” Salvador says.
Think of your cover letter as another tool in your job search arsenal, says Betty Corrado, owner of career-coaching and resume-writing firm Career Authenticity in Cos Cob, Connecticut. “The cover letter is a key part of your marketing package,” she says. “Use it as an opportunity to convey your brand and value proposition.”
Pro: Cover letters let you reveal your personality and build rapport
A resume tends to be fact-based and somewhat formal, but a cover letter can be infused with personality. “Don’t be afraid to inject personal notes about interests or philosophies that may help employers determine if you will fit into their culture,” says Roleta Fowler Vasquez, professional resume writer and owner of Wordbusters in Fillmore, California. To increase the “wow” factor of their cover letters, she encourages applicants to add a few standout accomplishments that don’t appear on the resume.
Laila Atallah, a Seattle career counselor and owner of Career Counseling with a Twist, agrees that a cover letter can be more revealing than a resume. “The best cover letters are infused with energy, personality and details about the applicant’s skills and achievements,” she says. “I get a sense of the person and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s easier for me to picture them in their next job.”
Job seekers often make the mistake of sending a resume without a cover letter, says Ann Baehr, president of Best Resumes of New York in East Islip, New York. “This is a missed opportunity to establish rapport with employers and provide a sense of who they are beyond their work experience,” she says.
Thinking about skipping the cover letter when applying for an internal position? Don't. Use the cover letter to show how well you understand your employer’s mission and remind management of how much you have already accomplished.
Include a cover letter even if a colleague is submitting your resume for you. The letter is a chance to introduce yourself and mention your contact as a reminder that you are a referral. This is what a cover letter should include, should you decide to send one.
Pro: Cover letters let you tell a story
The cover letter can include information that would be out of place on the resume. “Job seekers can include the name of a mutual contact or referral, state how they would benefit the employer if hired and explain tricky situations such as changing careers, relocating, returning to the workforce and so on,” Baehr says.
Atallah encourages job seekers to learn about the requirements of the job opening and use the cover letter to express how and why they are uniquely qualified. “Use your cover letter to tell a story,” she says. “Studies show that stories are memorable and engaging, and cover letters are a perfect vehicle for expressing your successes in a more storylike format.”
When not to send a cover letter
Given all the reasons to send a cover letter, is it ever a good idea not to? “If the application instructions expressly say not to include a cover letter, or if an online application offers no opportunity, then you can forego the cover letter in these cases,” Atallah says.
Vasquez agrees that you should not send a cover letter when the employer specifically says not to. “This may be a test of your ability to follow directions,” she says.
What if you think the cover letter won’t be read? Corrado says that while some hiring managers say they don’t read cover letters, those who do may dismiss your application if you don’t send one. “Why take this chance when you need every possible advantage in this job market?” she asks.
While writing cover letters is time-consuming, the consensus is that the effort could give you an edge and help you land more interviews.
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Samples of the Best Cover Letters
Cover Letter Examples Listed by Type of Job and Letter
When applying for a job, you should always include a cover letter. Even if a job listing does not specifically request a cover letter, it can be a terrific way to summarize your skills and experiences, and explain (in more detail than a resume) why you are an ideal candidate for the job.
It's important to write a letter that specifies what makes you one of the best candidates for the position. Your cover letter should be well written, and should be targeted to the position for which you are applying.
Make connections between your experiences and the skills required to excel in the job. Your cover letter is one of the first thing the hiring manager will see (along with your resume), so make sure it grabs the reader’s attention.
Use these cover letter samples to get ideas for your own cover letters, so you can show employers why you should be selected for an interview.
How to Use Cover Letter Samples
Cover letter samples are a great place to start before writing your own letter. Read through some of the samples below, focusing on ones related to your industry.
These samples can help you format your letter. They can also give you ideas for the language you might want to use, and the information you should include.
However, be sure to customize your letter to fit your own skills and experience, and the job for which you are applying. You can also alter the format of a resume example. For instance, if the example has three paragraphs, and you only want to include two paragraphs, you can do so.
Also be sure to read this list of tips for writing a strong cover letter, and this detailed cover letter guide. If you are having trouble with a particular section of your cover letter, check out these articles on cover letter salutations, cover letter closings, and parts of a cover letter.
Best Cover Letter Samples
Review an alphabetical list of great cover letter examples listed by occupation, as well as by type of cover letter.
Use these examples to get ideas for your own cover letters.
A - E
· Academic Advisor
· Academic Cover Letter
· Academic Cover Letter (science)
· Administrative Coordinator
· Admissions Counselor
· Applying for More Than One Job
· Athletic Director
· Biomedical Engineer
· Block Format Cover Letter
· Business/Technical (with referral)
· Camp Counselor
· Career Change
· Cold Contact Cover Letter
· College Graduate
· College Graduate
· College Student
· Communications Director (email cover letter)
· Construction Management
· Customer Service
· Database Administrator
· Development/Museum Position
· Director of Operations
· Editorial Assistant (email cover letter)
· Education/Alternative Education
· Email Cover Letters
· Employee Referral
· Entry Level (analyst)
· Entry Level (finance)
· Entry Level (marketing)
· Event Planner
F - M
· Faculty Position
· Finance Internship
· Flight Attendant
· Front End Web Developer
· Golf Caddy
· Hair Stylist
· Higher Education Communications
· Information Security Analyst
· Informational Meeting Request Letter
· Internal Marketing (with referral)
· Job Promotion Cover Letters (communications and retail)
· Job Transfer Request Letter
· Job Transfer Request Letter Example (relocation)
· Letter of Interest
· Letter of Interest
· Market Research Analyst
· Marketing Assistant (college student)
· Media Relations (college graduate)
N - R
· Networking Cover Letters
· Occupational Therapist
· Office Assistant (part-time)
· Part-Time Job
· Physical Therapist
· Programmer Analyst
· Prospecting Letter
· Recruiting Manager
· Referred by a Contact
· Request a Meeting
· Research Technician
· Retail Management
S - Z
· Salary History
· Salary Range
· Salary Requirements
· Sales Associate (summer)