Is a Cover Letter Necessary To Get Invited to an Interview?

Overview

Is a Cover Letter Necessary To Land an Interview? Let’s Solve the Dilemma!

When looking for a job, you will ask yourself many questions. What exactly am I looking for? Is my resume adequate, or does it leave a lot to be desired? Is a cover letter necessary to get me an interview, or will the resume suffice? 

If you are fresh out of college and ready to embark on your career journey, you are undoubtedly full of enthusiasm and fiery energy. Still, if you have been unemployed for a while and have been rejected more times than you want to remember, the quest for a new work opportunity seems all but fun.

Whether this is your first time applying for a job or you are looking for a change, you may be wondering what the latest trends regarding resumes and cover letters are. How much do cover letters matter nowadays? Should you always submit a cover letter?

We are here to tell you that cover letters are still relevant—despite what you may have read on LinkedIn—and recruiters do read them. 

To write a winning cover letter, though, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve. This article will explain all there is to know about cover letters, including:

The information you get will be more than enough to make your application stand out from the competition and land you an interview.

What’s a Cover Letter?

A bird’s-eye shot of a person taking notes in front of a laptop

Source: J. Kelly Britto

A cover letter is a document you submit along with your resume when you apply for a position in a company. Companies may ask you to email your cover letter or upload it through an online application form. Cover letters do several things:

  1. Give you a chance to introduce yourself to the employer
  2. Express your enthusiasm for the role and/or the industry
  3. Explain why you would be a valuable addition to the company
  4. Help you make a great first impression

To accomplish these goals and sell yourself to the employer, your cover letter must be professional, well-written, and concise. 

How Important Are Cover Letters?

Some companies will explicitly state that candidates must submit a cover letter with the resume. Others will say that a cover letter is either optional or unnecessary. Some will not mention cover letters at all. 

You may assume that most recruiters don’t read cover letters—but you still have to keep in mind that half of them expect to receive cover letters. Whether they will pay them a second of their time is beside the point. 

You should also consider that a recruiter could send your cover letter directly to a hiring manager. In a small company, even the employer may want to read it before deciding whether you are the right fit for them. In such instances, candidates who made an effort and spent some time polishing their cover letters will have the advantage.

You never know how many people have applied for a role. If there are not a lot of candidates, recruiters and hiring managers have more time to focus on each application. If a company receives hundreds of applications, recruiters may instantly reject those without cover letters. You can’t know for sure what the rejection criteria will be, so it’s always best to make sure your application gets noticed.

Cover letters are important because they give you an opportunity to distinguish yourself from others. They can actually improve your chances of landing the interview. 

So, should you send a cover letter if they don’t ask for it explicitly? The answer to this question will depend on a few factors. 

When Are Cover Letters Necessary?

An over-the-shoulder shot of two female hiring managers sitting at a table and interviewing a candidate

Source: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

There are situations where it is absolutely clear that you have to submit a cover letter. You should do this when:

  • The job ad states that a cover letter is necessary
  • The recruitment specialist, employer, or hiring manager requests it
  • Somebody has referred you for the role

If you are not sure whether you should include a cover letter when applying for a position, in most cases, the answer will be—yes. 

In essence, there is no such thing as an optional cover letter. If a job ad says so, roll up your sleeves and start working on it. The thing is, employers want to see who will go the extra mile to get the job. If you try to cut corners, a candidate who invested more effort and sent in a cover letter will have the advantage. You don’t want to miss a chance to impress your potential future employer. 

If you have any employment gaps, a cover letter would be an excellent way to mention that. 

Still, keep in mind that you don’t have to give any reasons for the gap. You can say you had to look after a family member, but don’t dwell on it—move on to emphasize why you are a great candidate for the position. If you were made redundant due to company downsizing caused by COVID-19, it’s fine to include the explanation. It is also okay to elaborate that you wanted to take time off to take care of your children—if the company has a problem with this, perhaps they are not the right fit for you

When Is a Cover Letter Not Necessary?

There are a few situations when applying without a cover letter is acceptable:

  • The job post clearly states not to send it—note that employers sometimes include a sentence in the middle or towards the end of a job ad saying not to submit a cover letter, and they want to see if you have read the job ad carefully
  • The system doesn’t allow you to submit a cover letter 
  • Your writing skills are poor—if you feel like your cover letter will do more harm than good, it’s better you don’t send it
  • You already know the recruiters, and they know you—you are friends, former coworkers, etc.
  • You already discussed the job position with a company representative and agreed that you don’t need to send them a cover letter

What Are Some Cover Letter Alternatives?

A close-up of a person typing on a laptop

Source: Glenn Carstens-Peters

In some instances, you can provide an alternative to a cover letter. That can be any of the following:

  • Professional blog (make sure it’s related to the role or niche)
  • LinkedIn profile (more specifically, the About section)
  • Portfolio (relevant for creative professionals, such as web designers, graphic designers, content writers, etc.)
  • Examples of high-ranking projects (relevant for SEO experts)
  • Bio page on your current/past company’s website

You can also opt for a hybrid solution and send an email cover letter. Instead of creating a separate document, write a shorter letter in the body of the email and attach a resume. You don’t have to make it as structured and detailed as you would an actual cover letter. Also, if you want, you can add links to your LinkedIn page or personal website, but make sure to explain why you have decided to put them there.

Is the LinkedIn About Section a Suitable Substitute for a Cover Letter?

It’s always beneficial to provide a link to your LinkedIn profile. Even if you don’t, the recruiter might still check it out, so your About section should be well-written and your profile updated. 

But you shouldn’t rely on this. You might have given them a link to your profile, but don’t assume that the recruiter will automatically click on it. Your cover letter and resume should include all the relevant information, and a link to your LinkedIn profile can be a welcome addition.

Don’t try to bait a recruiter by saying something like this:

I have had excellent results conducting SEO campaigns. Check out my LinkedIn profile to see some examples.” You can be sure that it won’t work. Provide specific examples of your accomplishments in the cover letter and add a link to your full LinkedIn biography for additional details.

If you want to use your LinkedIn profile in your resume or a cover letter, be sure to:

  1. Update your profile regularly
  2. Customize your About section so that it relates to the role you want
  3. Find and remove broken links

You can save a version of your About section as a Word document so you can use it later when you decide to apply for a different position. 

What Does a Killer Cover Letter Look Like?

A female recruiter and candidate sitting opposite each other during a job interview

Source: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Good cover letter samples share some basic qualities. Below, you will find what those qualities are as well as what to avoid when writing a cover letter:

RightWrong
A letter that fits on a single pageA long-winded narrative that no one wants to read
Focus on the value a candidate adds to the companyFocus on what the company can do for a candidate’s career
Emphasis on a few skills, projects, or achievements relevant to the positionList of all the previous positions and projects a candidate worked on during their career
Examples and explanations not listed in the resumeThe same information already included in the resume
A targeted cover letter, customized specifically for the role A generic cover letter sent for every position a candidate applies for

Customization and good formatting and structure are crucial. When you customize your cover letter for a particular role and use the keywords from the job ad, it will get your application past the candidate-filtering software that many companies use. If you format and structure your cover letter well, the recruiter will have an easier time finding all that interests them. 

Formatting a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be readable and skimmable. What your document looks like at first glance is the first step to making the person want to read it. 

Recruiters will not have the time to read every single cover letter in detail. You have to make it easy for them to skim through it and get the gist of what you have to offer. 

Here are a few tips to make your cover letter skimmable:

  1. Use line spacing—Include lots of white space between paragraphs and sections
  2. Align the text to the left—Justified alignment looks neat but makes the text hard to read, so stick to left alignment
  3. Bold key skills, achievement, and data—When hiring managers scan the text, they will easily find the most important elements
  4. Use bullet points—Listing your skills and achievements in a bulleted list will help emphasize them
  5. Stick to a professional-looking font style—Steer clear of fonts that look weird and are difficult to read. Use clean, simple fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. Make sure not to italicize and underline the text or combine different fonts within the cover letter—that decreases readability

Structuring a Cover Letter

Typically, cover letters consist of several distinct parts:

  1. Heading
  2. Greeting
  3. Opening paragraph
  4. Body
  5. Closing paragraph

You will find what each of the sections should include in the table below:

SectionWhat To Include
HeadingFull name
Phone number
Email address
Date
Company info
GreetingDear Sir/Madam
Dear Mr/Ms [name]
Dear recruiter
To whom it may concern
Opening paragraphAdd some basic details about who you are
Explain why you want the job
Mention how you heard about the position
Comment on how you would contribute to the company
BodyTalk about your experience and qualifications
Elaborate on how you would add value to the company
Mention relevant projects and accomplishments
Closing paragraphExpress interest in giving them more details about the role—include a so-called “call to action”
Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration
Sign-offSincerely
Best regards
Kind regards
Respectfully

How Important It Is That a Cover Letter Is Written From Scratch?

Writing a cover letter may look like a lot of work, but know that you don’t have to write one anew every time you apply for a role. Some parts of your cover letter can remain the same:

  • The heading—except for the company name
  • The opening sentence and paragraph—but you must update the position you are applying for and the company name for each application
  • The closing paragraph—mentioning what attracted you to the company

The central part will have to be tailored to suit the particular position. For instance, if you worked in sales and were successful in that role, mention it only if you are applying for a position in the sales department. 

You can create a basic outline and customize your cover letter to suit the role and company you are applying to. 

Making a cover letter (or alternatives) relevant to the position you are applying for is critical. Sending a generic version is never a good idea because it will be a signal to the recruiter that you have been mass applying, which will diminish your chances of getting an interview. You can use a cover letter template to base your cover letter upon, but make sure to customize it by adding your skills and avoid typical mistakes, such as forgetting to change the date.

Remember that you will have to elaborate on what you have written in the cover letter during a potential interview. Your cover letter should only include things you want to discuss further.

A Better Way To Look for a Job

A young woman wearing a hijab drinking coffee in her office and smiling

Source: Good Faces

Cover letter or no cover letter, the job hunt in this economic climate is not a walk in the park.

64% of workers consider the job search to be more stressful now than before, and it’s particularly challenging for parents. You need to increase your chances of getting an interview sooner rather than later. 

Research shows that 26% of hiring managers read cover letters and think they are critical for making their decisions. If you consider that 58% of candidates don’t meet the job post requirements, it’s in your best interest to point out that you do.

The trouble is that, even with a perfectly polished resume and cover letter, you may still spend weeks or even months applying for various jobs before you receive an offer. 

Once you begin your job hunt, you will have many obstacles to cross. Or you can take an

easier way and try Lensa.

Lensa is a job aggregator that helps job seekers find the perfect position. It does more than

present you with job suggestions that fit your desired salary range and location. 

You can learn more about your personality and workstyle by playing the Workstyle game, and the results will help you make an informed decision regarding your career. 

Sign up with our app and enjoy numerous benefits:

  1. Browse job ads from multiple job boards that Lensa compiles on a single platform
  2. Discover how ATS-friendly your resume is
  3. Receive customized job recommendations via SMS or email
  4. Get a chance to choose jobs based on your personality and cultural preferences
  5. Filter out remote positions

How To Register With Lensa

The process of registration is quick and simple. Follow these steps and start looking for a job within minutes:

  1. Go to the Lensa website
  2. Add a job title and location
  3. Provide your email address

After you have successfully registered, you can start browsing job listings and play the Workstyle game to learn more about yourself. You can also customize your profile by:

  • Providing your phone number to receive job recommendations
  • Specifying the desired salary
  • Adding your education level and work experience
  • Uploading your resume

A few minutes spent personalizing your account will save you tremendous amounts of time you would otherwise waste browsing different job boards. You will see job openings from many different job boards in a single place, and you will receive job suggestions tailored to your preferences and needs.

Featured image: Cottonbro

Recommended posts

Finding a job
Startup States

Which states are the best to launch a startup in? Starting your own business comes with many perks, from taking

Read More »