What is The Point of a Cover Letter?

Nancy Anderson
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It can be tempting to spend most of your time during the job search finalizing your resume. However, the cover letter is just as important. If you struggle to find the right words when writing this crucial element of your application materials, it may be time to rediscover its purpose.

Why Do You Need It?

Although many professionals debate the need for this introductory letter, the bottom line is you need it to further emphasize your skills and experience listed on your resume. Don't miss out on the opportunity to highlight your achievements, promotions and performance in past positions that are relevant to the position you are seeking.

The debate regarding the necessity of crafting a cover letter may leave you uncertain about investing the time and effort to customize one for each position or even submit one at all. It is possible some hiring managers do not require or see the need for it, but if you neglect to include one, you could be eliminating yourself from opportunities when crossing paths with a hiring manager who does see the value of this letter. When in doubt, include the cover letter with your job materials.

What Is the Purpose?

The purpose of a cover letter is to provide the employer with an inside look at your professional performance, qualities and personality traits not listed on your resume. A resume is merely a snapshot of your professional experience; however, an introductory letter can provide more specific details and examples about your professional career and experience. For example, if your resume notes you met or exceeded sales goals, explain your approach to sales in your letter. Go beyond just listing achievements and reveal personality and professional traits that helped you to achieve these goals, such as a passion for satisfying customer requests or the desire to work in an environment that requires multi-tasking.

Why Should You Customize Each Letter?

Make your cover letter unique for each position. Hiring managers are seeking candidates who show knowledge of the industry and their company. Instead of working from a template or submitting the same letter for each job opening, think about how you can make an impact as an employee at this business. Point out specific skills you possess while also mentioning specific details you discovered during your research. If a company was recognized or honored, point out you want to be a part of future achievements and successes.

Write a cover letter with a clear purpose in mind to impress potential employers and increase your opportunities in your job search. Let your communication skills articulately convey your interest in working for the company so your enthusiasm prompts potential employers to contact you for an interview.

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  • Shirley  Baller
    Shirley Baller

    @ Carol... great reply but please check grammar 4th sentence from the end of your comment. Sigh.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Carol J very well said. Reinventing oneself can happen at any age. Example: when I retired from the Navy I had no idea what I was going to do as far as a job. After all, I knew Navy lingo inside and out but what about being a civilian again? It is tough but you just have to persevere. As @Carol mentioned - take a good hard look at yourself - at your talent and see if you can't reinvent yourself as something other than an admin - maybe in HR or marketing or event planning or non-profit. Try volunteering, if you can. Not only will you gain valuable experience but it's experience that you can include on your resume for future work. As @Carol said - age is just a number but attitude is everything. If you go into with the right attitude, you can conquer the world.

  • Carol J.
    Carol J.

    @Kris Hi as a women changing career at 50 I want to encourage you and share share hope and positivity for the future. Some times changes come in the worst way to remind us we are more than an admln assistant , secretary, mother wife etc. experience, work ethics, skills can be translated to fit today's job market. The worst thing in this life is to not experience growth whether it is mental or physical. Some companies are more concerned about lack of exposure more than anything else. Your biggest challenge yet may lie in your ability to reinvent yourself. What more do you have to offer in this time of social media and technology. What is your true calling, goal, gift here is an opportunity to sharpen your skills education to do what you were meant to do. When you make over your resume to fit this fulfilled, excited, open minded individual the phones will be ringing with second interview offers before you get home from the interview. Their are so many careers that utilizes an admin background you just need to offer more. Check opportunities in event planning, transportation, etc there is a lot going on there. Volunteer while learning new skills. Age is just a number, attitude is everything.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Kris so sorry you encountered that at an interview. It's unfortunate. Not all companies are like that. Some of them will tell you - no tattoos or piercings, etc. Others will just let you come into the interview and then act the way you interviewer did. I have seen Admins function quite well with the very long fingernails. Sadly, though, when interviewing, it will be a turnoff every single time unless you happen to interview at a company where the majority of folks have either the nails, piercings or tattoos. First impressions count Kris. As for the other 39 positions you applied for, did you do any followups to find out why? Did you follow up after this interview to find out why you did not receive an offer? Don't let your fingernails be the reason that you don't get hired. You can always grow them back later, after you get a job. And please note that many of those with tattoos face the same sort of discrimination that you faced with the fingernails.

  • kris s.
    kris s.

    Every job application is online nowdays which I'm not to happy about!!! I lost my job after 27 years administrative assistant for ophthalmologist and I guess I'm to old 52 or nobody wants to pay me I've applied for about 40 jobs which I'm qualified for and I've had 1 interview for the very first job I applied for and did not get hired even with my experience! Lady that interviewed me was to busy looking at my fingernails!! I'm tired of just because I have nails people doesn't mean I can't function or I can't type I've had them since I was 18 years old!! Nothing against tattoos but why do people worry so much about my fingernails rather than worrying about their workers covered in the tattoos???

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Anna thanks for your comment. I appreciate your point of view on the subject of cover letters. However, if the posting indicated that you include a cover letter and you don't - then that was a wasted trip. It's always better to err on the side of caution and include a cover letter. And yes, they do get read by the applicant tracking software the same as your resume. I would send a cover letter in for every posting just to be on the safe side. @Jill thanks for your comment., You are right. Never include a social security number on an online application. If you can, contact the company and explain to them that you would like to apply but refuse to include your ssn and ask if they have an alternate way of applying. Personally I never offer up my ssn until I have a valid job offer in front of me. So very true - great way to fall into identity theft!

  • Jill V.
    Jill V.

    Dear Beyond People: My former boss-lady has a job now at Food Lion. She suggested to me
    that I should try to get a job there. So, some months ago, I was trying to apply there over
    the Internet, and I was trying to fill out the form, and they had the chutzpah to tell me that
    the machine could not process my application without "a valid Social Security number".
    So, of course I canceled the application. I do not intend to send my Social Security num-
    ber over the Internet, though I would have had no objection to writing it down on a
    paper job application, or giving it to them verbally over the phone.
    But today, I found something from you in my Inbox about Food Lion. I do not intend
    to waste time trying to apply to them online. If they think I am obligated to subject my-
    self to identity theft, they can take the job and ram it up their @$$.

  • Anna Pilette
    Anna Pilette

    I think cover letters are a great idea - when mailed to a human. When applying to a posting online, where you are throwing yet another resume into the endless void to be scanned by an ATS... no. Hour after hour is wasted filling in company after company's website. Why waste more time for a cover letter that included with a list of stuff no employer will read and no HR person will understand?


    Very informative and I agree that a cover letter written correctly would be helpful toward getting an job interview.

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