Yes! While the statistical and anecdotal evidence varies, a cover letter will help you stand out.

Just this year ResumeLab surveyed 200 hiring decision-makers to get their feedback on cover letters. According to their survey, 83% of respondents claimed that a great cover letter can secure you an interview even if your resume isn’t good enough. Furthermore, they found that “even if submitting a cover letter is optional, 77% of recruiters will give preference to candidates who send a cover letter” and that “72% of recruiters still expect cover letters even if the job ad states they’re optional.”

This is higher than some older surveys, but as we know the job market has drastically changed. What I have heard from other subject matter experts is that half of all recruiters read the cover letter. You wouldn’t want to wind up on the desk of the 50% that DO take the time to read cover letters and not have sent one! 

In ResumeLab’s same survey, hiring managers reported even when required only 6 out of 10 applicants submitted a cover letter! Taking the time to prepare a great cover letter is worth the time and will likely serve to your advantage. 

One word of caution, a bad cover letter will cause more harm than good. So, make sure your letter is authentic and tailored to each job. Let your personality come through but keep it professional. State your desire for applying and reiterate keywords so that it is ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) compliant. But don’t just restate your resume. Highlight a story that speaks to your fit and enthusiasm for the role. Focus on their needs and how your skills and experience are a match. Show your value. This is your chance to briefly explain your career story and the reasons for career changes or gaps in your work history. 

After you’ve written your cover letter, edit it. Keep it short and to the point. You don’t want it to be more than 3-5 short paragraphs, 300-600 words max. Proofread several times! Showcase your attention to detail and exceptional communication skills by submitting a sharp, error-free, well-written cover letter. 

Cover Letter Tips:

  • Don’t just reiterate your resume. Put it in context. 
  • Sell yourself by focusing on their needs and why you are a good fit.
  • Let your personality show, but don’t be too casual – match their tone.
  • Use the same font as your resume – 10 or 12 point. 
  • One page only, 3-5 short paragraphs, 300-600 words. 
  • Follow the job posting’s instructions for submitting. 
  • Use a PDF when possible to maintain formatting.
  • Save the file with your name and the job title.
  • Try to find out who the hiring manager is so you can address them by name.

My Virtual Program Her Career Catalyst meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month where we talk about job situations, answer career questions and congratulate women on their successes. Sound like a place you might need? Join us here.

Christine Horstman
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