Do Cover Letters Still Matter?

Given the days of online applications and PDF resumes, the idea of a cover letter seems quaint. Your resume should display your career highlights. The thought of an objective statement seems pointless: I want the job so I can eat and live somewhere.

But you could be missing out on a key tool that separates you from the pack of other applicants. Of course, not all online application tools allow for a cover letter. Some make it seem optional. But if there’s a way to submit a cover letter, you should take advantage of the opportunity.

Do you really need a cover letter? Well, in one survey, 98% of respondents said you need a cover letter. But in another poll, 70% said it wasn’t necessary. Do you need one? Well, it depends.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re going to use a cover letter. But it doesn’t have to be hard.

Like a resume, you should have a base document that you can customise for each job opening. It’s another opportunity to use keywords from the job posting to help your application pass the initial screening by the applicant tracking system (ATS) software.

Effective cover letters are clear and concise. Generally, the ideal cover letter is three paragraphs long.

A cover letter should tell something about you that’s not on the resume. You can toot your own horn in a professional way and express your enthusiasm for the job and company. Show you’ve done research on the company, and you can contribute to its success.

Think of a cover letter as a sales pitch. Even if you’re not in sales, you can sell yourself. Here’s a basic framework for a successful cover letter:

Start With Passion

Grab the reader’s attention in the introduction. Express your enthusiasm about the position and the company. Don’t open with the old standard, “I am applying for the position advertised on your website.”

Try something like, “If loving data is wrong, I don’t want to be right. That’s just one of the reasons why I think I’d be perfect for the procurement analyst role.”

Also, if you have a referral from someone in the company, that can be your eye-catching opener. They know you’re a legit candidate for the follow-up pile.

Make Your Pitch

Here’s where you can address your achievements, attributes, and skills. Explain why your qualifications relate to this role and what you hope you could accomplish. Companies want to hire confident employees who are enthusiastic about their work.

Highlight specific accomplishments backed up by numbers and examples. Did you negotiate favourable contracts with key vendors? Did you implement new technology that streamlined processes and served end-users better? Let your light shine!

Don’t go overboard on the hype. You don’t have to call yourself a Procurement Ninja if you have the experience and details that show how effective you are.

The goal is to show how you will contribute to the company, not what the job will mean to you.

Finish Strong

Put your skills and experience in the context of the big picture for the company.

Restate how you can add value and thank the hiring manager for their consideration. Suggest the next step of following up with a call or interview. Show how you will use your initiative to get things done.

Review the job posting carefully to ensure you’re using keywords and phrases when accurate and appropriate. Visit the employer’s website to understand their culture. Read their mission and values statements and align your language with them.

Follow any specific instructions in the job listing, such as referencing the job title or requisition number or using a specific file format. Of course, many online applications ask you to submit your information through the system, and then on the next screen, tell you to upload your resume. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s all part of the process.

With a cover letter, you can be more personal. Tie your accomplishments to the company’s mission or share an anecdote that doesn’t fit neatly into a bullet point.

If you’ve been applying for jobs by resume only and not getting much of a response, consider adding a cover letter. It could make a difference. It demonstrates your willingness to present yourself in the best light and do what needs to be done to accomplish your goal.