While some might claim that the era of the cover letter is over, studies show that 83% of hiring managers still read cover letters and consider them when making hiring decisions.
Cover letters play a multifaceted role in helping hiring teams understand you as a candidate. They offer a unique opportunity to go beyond the bullet points of resumes and convey your personality, passion, and suitability for the position. And— in a world where only 38% of candidates are writing one— sending a cover letter can be an easy way to stand out.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself, highlight your qualifications, express interest in a specific job, and persuade the employer to consider you for the position.
However, the full answer goes a little deeper. A cover letter can actually serve many purposes! How it works for you will depend on your unique situation and the company you’re applying to.
Here is an in-depth look at the different purposes a cover letter can serve in your job application process.
1. Make a personalized introduction
A well-crafted cover letter serves as the first point of contact between you and the employer. It establishes a connection that lays the foundation for a strong application. After all, 36% of hiring decision-makers will read your cover letter before they review your resume!
2. Express enthusiasm and interest
Another purpose of a cover letter is to express interest and enthusiasm for the job opportunity.
Employers are more likely to be drawn to candidates who are genuinely interested in the role, as it suggests they will be engaged employees. In fact, 4 in 10 employers say they would reject a candidate if they showed no enthusiasm.
Expressing interest in your cover letter sets a positive tone for the rest of the application. Ultimately, the goal is to create a sense of excitement and anticipation for the hiring manager.
3. Highlight relevant skills, experiences, and achievements
A cover letter is the perfect place to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and achievements in greater detail than what is possible in a resume alone.
By choosing and elaborating on key experiences and achievements that align with the job requirements, you can show you’re the right person for the job.
4. Convey soft skills, passions, and interests
You can also use your cover letter to convey soft skills, passions, and interests.
Resumes primarily focus on hard skills and professional experience. Cover letters, on the other hand, allow you to showcase other attributes that make you an exceptional candidate.
Soft skills such as communication, attention to detail, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and leadership are often just as crucial as technical skills in many roles. In your cover letter, you can provide examples illustrating how you have effectively applied these skills at previous jobs.
Similarly, sharing passions and interests— especially if they align with the company’s mission or purpose— can help you stand out from the crowd.
5. Demonstrate cultural fit
In today’s job market, skill and ability isn’t the only thing employers are looking for. According to a study by OnHire, 84% of recruiters state that culture fit is now becoming one of the key factors when recruiting.
This means that how well a candidate’s values, personality, and work style align with those of the company matters.
In the cover letter, you can show your understanding of the company culture and how you would contribute positively to it. By researching the company’s mission, values, and work environment, you can tailor your cover letter to showcase how you embody those values and would thrive within the organization.
Say you are applying to a company known for its commitment to sustainability. Here, you could mention your passion for environmental issues or previous experiences volunteering for eco-friendly initiatives.
This not only showcases your personal values but also signals to the hiring manager that you would be a good cultural fit for the organization.
6. Address how you meet or exceed specific requirements
In your cover letter, you also have the opportunity to talk about the requirements outlined in the job description.
Analyze the job posting and identify the key skills the employer is seeking. From there, you can tailor your cover letter to show you possess those qualifications and are well-suited for the role.
You can use the cover letter to expand on achievements that showcase your proficiency in areas relevant to the job. For instance, if the job description lists strong project management skills as a requirement, you could highlight a successful project you led and the results you achieved.
7. Provide more context for career changes or employment gaps
Another purpose of a cover letter is to provide more context to things like career changes or employment gaps. By addressing these issues directly in the cover letter, you can proactively alleviate any concerns the hiring manager may have.
For example, you may change careers, and your previous experience doesn’t seem directly relevant to the new role. You can use the cover letter to explain how your transferable skills and experiences make you well-suited for the position.
Similarly, if you have a gap in employment due to personal reasons or career exploration, you can provide a brief explanation in the cover letter. This assures the hiring manager that you are still committed and motivated to re-enter the workforce.
Let your cover letter work for you
Cover letters can serve many purposes. With so much flexibility, it’s important to evaluate how your cover letter can work for you with each job application.
With some applications, you may want to highlight how your skills are a perfect fit. At another company, it may be more advantageous to showcase how you’re a culture fit. If you’re changing careers, using your cover letter to provide context and demonstrate transferable skills would be wise.
To determine the best way to use your cover letter, start by researching the company. From there, think of ways that you can align yourself with the company, showcase your skills, and prove yourself to be an exceptional candidate!