Do I Need a Cover Letter in 2021? Are Cover Letters Mandatory?
During the job-hunting process, you might find yourself asking “do I really need a cover letter?”
And honestly, that’s a very good question.
You might’ve heard a lot of recruiters say that cover letters aren’t nearly as important as the resume. Some recruiters even openly admit that they don’t read cover letters at all.
So, no wonder that you’re confused about whether or not you really need a cover letter.
In this article, we’re going to deep dive into the topic and teach you when you really need a cover letter (and when you don’t).
Read on to find out:
- Whether you need to include a cover letter in your application (and why)
- When to not include a cover letter with your resume
- When to really put effort into your cover letter
Do I Need a Cover Letter For My Resume
Short answer: yes, you should submit a cover letter alongside your resume.
- Most job openings require you to submit a cover letter. Recruiters might not have the time to read ALL the cover letters they receive, but they will definitely read cover letters if they’re on the fence for a candidate. Besides, even if they never get to your cover letter, failing to submit one when it’s required will be a red flag.
- A cover letter shows that you’ve put in the extra effort. So, even if the recruiters don’t read them, they will know that you really want the job and that you are committed to taking all necessary steps to show you’re worth it.
- A cover letter can set you apart from other candidates. Imagine this scenario: a recruiter is looking at two candidates with the same exact professional background and resume. The difference? One submitted an A++ cover letter that showed exactly why they’re the perfect fit for the job, while the other just copied and pasted an internet template. Which one would you pick? Our point exactly!
The above being said, there do exist a few cases where a cover letter isn’t necessary and a few others where you shouldn't just submit a cover letter, but you should really put in the extra effort to make it memorable!
Ready to go through them?
When Not to Include a Cover Letter
The 3 cases where you don’t need to include a cover letter with your application are:
#1. The job opening doesn’t require one.
Yeap, in some cases, the job description will specifically instruct you not to submit a cover letter when you’re applying for the position. Needless to say, submitting one regardless of the instructions will not make you a poster child for dedication; it will just show you can’t follow instructions.
#2. You don’t have the time to customize your cover letters.
If there’s one thing that’s worse than not submitting a cover letter, is submitting a bad cover letter. What do we mean by bad? An uncustomized cover letter, or a cover letter based on a one-fits-all kind of template that you plan on mass-sending to all the jobs you’re applying for.
So, if you’re applying to many jobs and you just don’t have the time (or creativity) to write a separate cover letter tailored to each job, then just don’t write one instead of making that cover letter mistake.
#3. There is no place to upload one on the application platform.
When you’re filling out an online job application, you might notice there is no place to upload a cover letter.
Consider that a clear sign that a cover letter is not required for that particular role.
When Should You Put Extra Effort to Submit a Cover Letter
Now, as we said, the best practice is to submit a cover letter with your resume for any job, internship, or even internal position that you apply for (unless they explicitly ask you not to).
That being said, there are a few cases in which you should REALLY submit a cover letter—and put in extra effort to make it significant:
- You have important information to add. It might be a career gap, the need for a relocation, or a career change - anything, basically, that you can’t go into detail about in your resume. Your cover letter is your chance to explain it (especially if it adds significant value to your application).
- There’s a personal connection/referral. If someone has personally referred you to the company, make sure to acknowledge that in your cover letter. A personal referral means bonus points for your application, so don’t miss out on a chance to mention it.
- You have a link to the company. Did you complete an internship at the company? Or maybe you know the hiring manager or someone higher up the ranks outside of work. No matter the case, be upfront about any link you may have to the company in your cover letter. It will probably do your application good or at least show those reading it that you’re transparent.
- It’s your dream job. Without making it a love letter to the company, use your cover letter to express what this job means to you professionally and how it’ll help you thrive. Passion goes a long way!
6 Tips For a Perfect Cover Letter
The bottom line?
Overwhelmingly, a cover letter is an essential part of your job application and you should include one with your resume.
So, as you can imagine, your cover letter should be on par with your resume. Before you start writing your cover letter, here are a few tips to make the process easier for you:
- Keep it short. One page is more than enough when it comes to cover letters. Actually, the optimal length for a cover letter is between 250-400 words long.
- Follow submission instructions. In the job description, look out for specifics on the cover letter format (Word or PDF), fonts and margins, and content (such as which sections or information to include).
- Proofread your cover letter. Once you’re done writing, make sure your cover letter doesn’t have any grammar or spelling mistakes. Use spell check software such as Grammarly to be on the safe side.
- Avoid cliches. Saying you’re a “great team player” or “effective communicator” will get you nowhere. Instead, aim to show it by backing it up with your experience. Think, “I’m a great communicator” versus “I’m a great communicator, having closed 50+ sales per month at my last job.”
- Enhance your personal brand. Opt to use the same fonts, margins, colors, and style in both your resume and cover letter. In this way, you can highlight your personal brand and make more of an impression on the hiring manager.
- Use action verbs. To make your achievements stand out, use action verbs. So, instead of repeating “I was responsible for” or “I was in charge of,” you can use action verbs such as “managed” or “coordinated.”
Do you still have some unanswered questions? Here are the most frequently asked questions on whether cover letters are mandatory.
Do I need a cover letter for a part-time job?
You should follow the same practice with your part-time job application as you would with a full-time one. That means you should definitely submit a strong cover letter with your resume (unless otherwise indicated in the job description).
Do I need a cover letter for an internal position?
When you apply for an internal position within the company, you should create a cover letter to highlight your experience and professional interest in the position.
Do I need a cover letter for an internship?
Yes, you should include a cover letter with your resume when you’re applying for an internship. The cover letter should focus on your skills and strengths, your education, and your dedication to the internship program.
Not sure how to write a cover letter for an internship from scratch? This article will tell you all you need to know!
Do I need a cover letter for an entry-level job?
Yes, an entry-level cover letter is a must.
You might not have many professional or relevant experiences to list on your resume (e.g. you’re a recent college graduate or you’re changing career paths), so the cover letter is where you can convey your enthusiasm and commitment. Plus, you can also (in words) explain how your skills from your university or past career translate into the job you’re applying for.
Do employers read the cover letter or resume first?
Generally, employers will first read your resume to see if you have the relevant experience or skills for the position. From there, they decide whether your cover letter is worth reading or not.
If you send your cover letter in the body of the email where you have attached your resume, though, the recruiter will probably skim through it before opening your resume.
Keep in mind that in such a case your cover letter should be perfect, especially in terms of spelling and business etiquette. If the recruiter spots a “u r” instead of “you are,” or a smiley face, they might not even get to your resume.
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Well, that was all on whether cover letters are mandatory in 2021. We hope that we answered all your questions on the topic.
Here’s a quick review of the main things we covered:
- In 98% of cases, you should include a cover letter in your job application. Although recruiters might not always read it, they expect candidates to submit one. A cover letter will considerably boost your chances and set you apart from other candidates with similar backgrounds and resumes.
- Don’t include a cover letter if the job opening specifies it’s not necessary, if you don’t have time to customize it to the position, or if there is no place to upload one in the application platform.
- Put extra effort in your cover letter if you have extra information to add to your resume if you have been personally referred for the job, if you have a link to the company, or if you’re applying to your dream job.