Whether you’ve applied for jobs and internships through an online portal or via email to the HR representative, you’ve most likely sent a cover letter and a resume at some point. These two documents, although a page in length, are essential to your job search and can make or break the application process. We all know the importance of a resume, but what exactly is the cover letter supposed to reflect? What should it include? Should you reference your resume in your cover letter? Or keep them separate?
Throughout college, students are given resume and cover letter tips by professors, but it seems like there is no universal opinion on them. Some employers may like the cover letter to reflect your past experiences, like your resume, and others may want you to offer what you could bring to the company.
Let’s start from the beginning: What exactly is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document that gives you a space to elaborate on your resume and yourself. Then, you can connect those attributes to the job or internship you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a job within a daily newspaper, and you wrote for the school newspaper (which you also have listed on your resume), you can showcase the specific things you learned in your cover letter, and relate them to the day-to-day tasks of the daily newspaper you are applying for. Did you have an excellent turn-around rate for articles? Can you pitch and work on multiple pieces at once? You might even have a great story to tell about your favorite article you’ve written. Feel free to tell the employer about these in your cover letter! Once you’ve given them more information about yourself that your resume cannot reflect, relate them to the new tasks at hand for the position.
So how important is the cover letter?
A general rule of thumb is to always include a cover letter, even if the application does not ask for one. It may not be required, but many companies that don’t require a cover letter during the application process will throw away applicants who do not include one. Consider it a quick way for employers to weed out the overachievers from the typical applicants.
Your cover letter is also a way to reflect on how you write and your personality, which are both crucial in any job you apply for in any field. Even if you’re a math major applying for a job in a lab where human contact is minimal, employers want to know that you can communicate effectively on paper and in person. So when you’re writing it, feel free to let yourself shine through the paragraphs! Being open about who you are to a potential employer may put you miles ahead of your competition.
And one more thing: If your application is being sent via email, utilize the body of the email to send your cover letter, rather than sending one as a separate file that has to be opened. This simple step will work wonders when it comes to moving your application forward in the hiring process!
Edited by Sydney Keener