In today's highly digital job market, it seems the resume is king, as it lists your work experience, education and major accomplishments. But no matter how detailed or professionally designed your resume is, it still can't paint an in-depth picture of who you are. Enter the cover letter, a snappy, well-written document that not only expands on your resume, but it also gives you an opportunity to catch the hiring manager's attention.
A big reason why having a cover letter is important is because this document is essentially the storybook version of your resume. It lets you highlight your major achievements, volunteer work or other experiences that either didn't fit on your resume or required a more detailed explanation. In a cover letter, you can also verbalize your energy and enthusiasm for the industry, the company and the position for which you're applying. You also get to state the reasons why you'd be a great fit for the position. A well-written cover letter is more important than even the most impressive resume, as it provides a glimpse into your personality and reveals your work ethic and attention to detail, states Lauren Nelson, communications specialist and vice president of Aesthetic Cogency.
Another reason cover letters are so important is that many employers require them when searching for candidates. Since so many candidates tend to just email their resumes with a generic, cookie-cutter cover letter attached or forget the cover letter entirely, having one that's well-crafted and engaging puts you ahead of the crowd. If the company you're applying to requests cover letters with all resumes, then half your competition may be slashed from the running simply by failing to follow these instructions. However, whether or not a company explicitly states its request for a cover letter, it is always wise to err on the side of caution by including one.
Another great reason to always include a cover letter is to show how well you fit into the employer's culture. Hiring managers know they need more than an accomplished candidate with extensive experience; they need someone who will mesh with the current team. This is why personalizing each cover letter you write is so crucial, as it gives you the chance to communicate why you'd make a great addition to the current team. It's also a good idea to slightly alter the tone of your cover letter when applying for different types of companies. For example, a casual tech startup might appreciate a few witty anecdotes, while a large corporate law firm is more likely to respond to a formal, professional-sounding letter.
The importance of the cover letter cannot be overstated. This brief document has the power to either capture a manager's attention or turn him off completely, so it's important to take the time to write it carefully. As the job market continues to become more competitive, candidates who include strong, compelling cover letters with their resumes have a higher likelihood of landing an interview.
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