What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a written document commonly required for job and internship applications that provides more information and specific examples of the skills and experience listed on your resume.
Do I have to write one?
Is it required? Then, yes. If it’s optional, we still recommend it. In a competitive job market, wouldn’t you want to provide hiring managers with as much information about what you have to offer as possible? Writing a cover letter allows you to communicate your passion for a role or employer, make a case for why you’d be a great fit, and give clear examples of when you’ve demonstrated the skills described in the job description.
Read more: Finally, an Answer To: Are Cover Letters Still Necessary? from The Muse
Cover letters are highly recommended if you…
- Have limited experience in a role or industry – You’ll need to connect how your current skillset would apply to this new opportunity.
- Are making a career transition – Show how your previous experience relates to the current opportunity and be as clear as possible. Don’t make employers take hints as to how you can contribute–tell them directly how your skills/experience will contribute to their mission.
- Are a strong writer – Show off your skills! Grab the attention of hiring managers by injecting your personality or unique qualifications in a creative way while still maintaining a professional tone.
- You want to explain an employment gap or address a question your resume may raise questions about your fit – It can be helpful to address these questions head-on in your letter. Just make sure you make your explanations brief and concise; they shouldn’t be main focus of your application.
Do I have to write a new one for every. single. application?
Technically, yes. However! You’re probably going to be applying for 2-3 types of positions. You can write different versions of your cover letter that highlight the most relevant skills for those types of positions and just change the employer contact information and position title wherever it appears in your letter. This is less impactful than writing a unique cover letter for each position, but it’s better than writing generic letters that communicate to an employer that you didn’t care enough about the position to customize your letter.
What do I write about?
Let the job description be your guide! Think about it: a job description is essentially a description of the employer’s ideal candidate. It’s your job to show how much you have in common with that dream candidate. That’s why it’s so much easier to write a cover letter with a job description than it is a “general” cover letter. Your letter should focus on your most relevant skills, experiences, and qualifications.
Pro Tip: There’s no such thing as a “general” cover letter.
Writing a cover letter with no job description might feel like writing an essay with no prompt. Instead, find a job description that you actually want to apply to or one that reflects the type of opportunities you would apply to. The job description tells you what skills are experience are most important to the employer, so those are the types of skills and experience you should write about in your letter!