Have questions about creating an awesome cover letter that increases your chances of landing an interview? We’ve got answers! Cover letters are often just as important as resumes, and in some cases, more important.
Candidates should take advantage of their opportunity to build upon the accomplishments noted on their resume and provide much-needed background.
So, here are answers to five common cover letter questions that job applicants often need to know.
5 Common Cover Letter Questions
1. Is a cover letter necessary?
Perhaps the most common of cover letter questions, the answer here is, for the most part, “yes.” Occasionally, a posting will state not to include one, and candidates should honor the prospective employer’s request. Also, if a job opportunity comes through a headhunter or recruiter who has seen your qualifications, the contacting party may jump directly to setting up an interview without needing a cover letter.
Beyond these situations, submitting a cover letter is generally either expected or in your best interest. Think of it as an additional chance to sell yourself and provide context to the key points that are on your resume.
2. How long should a cover letter be?
“Attention spans are getting shorter every day, so cover letters should be shorter than they were in the past. The exact length that’s right for you depends on your situation, but 200 words or less works well for most candidates nowadays,” says Certified Professional Resume Writer Kelly Donovan, principal at Kelly Donovan & Associates.
Spilling way beyond that amount? Watch that you aren’t using the space to compensate for an underdeveloped resume.
“Don’t use the cover letter as a place for important details you’re too lazy to add to the resume,” Donovan notes. “Some people think they can use the same resume to apply for lots of different jobs without making any changes and just include a cover letter targeted to each. The problem is that if HR screeners or hiring managers read the resume first and don’t see you as sufficiently relevant and qualified, they’re probably not going to bother reading the letter!”
3. What should be in a cover letter?
Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, emphasizes the importance of including keywords.
“For example, if the ad states that the company is looking for a ‘brand storyteller,’ then you should include those exact words in your letter—not synonyms. Many companies today are using a type of artificial intelligence software that scans job applications for the key words, so don’t be coy.”
Donovan adds that employers like to see genuine interest in their specific company.
“A lot of candidates submit applications for jobs they don’t feel strongly about just to see what happens. Use your cover letter to prove that you actually care about the job and company. Incorporate information that shows you’ve done your homework. For example, maybe you use a product the company makes; you can talk about that to demonstrate your passion. Or maybe the company is planning to expand into the healthcare vertical, and you have a lot of experience in that vertical and would enjoy driving the expansion.”
4. What should a job candidate not include in a cover letter?
While you can incorporate significant highlights, avoid simply rehashing your resume. And while the cover letter can be a good place to briefly explain things such as changing careers or transitioning back into the workforce, refrain from presenting your life story or coming off as desperate.
5. How do I make my cover letter stand out?
Consider a well-written, error-free letter addressed to a specific person as the minimum requirement. Then, look for opportunities to take your cover letter to the next level.
“The best way to make your cover letter stand out is to say you have been recommended by a particular person who works there—if true. A strong track record in the field or a good story, with you as the hero or heroine of your journey in the field, is also a good bet,” Oliver says.
Close by thanking the person for their consideration and including your contact information (for the employer’s convenience and in case your letter and resume get separated). Take one last look at your letter. If you come away thinking “That’s someone I’d like to meet,” chances are others will too!
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