I answer this simple, yet important question. 

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“Are cover letters always needed?”


The history of the cover letter is really very simple. In days of old, like when I got into recruiting what seems like hundred years ago, you had one resume that you mailed to an employer or you dropped off at their offices as you went from building to building trying to find a job. Back then, a cover letter became a complement to that one standard resume and would talk about some of the additional things that you did had done that were relevant to that job. So, you might just simply have typed up a letter that you put on top of the resume or stapled to it. Or, you might say something politely like, “I’m forwarding my resume to you for the role of (fill the blank) that I saw advertised in (fill in the blank). I believe my experience with such and such and such and such would make be a viable individual for your organization). That was paragraph two.

Paragraph three was, “I look forward to hearing from you about next steps in the process,” or, if you were doing drop-offs that day because you have no idea if there was a job, you would do one of those your self-promotion type of things, staple it onto your it resume and use it is a sales tool.

Obviously, cover letters are not used for that purpose anymore and know if your background as demonstrated on your resume shows that you fit the requirement perfectly, you don't need a cover letter. However, few resumes do. So, why not use it is a sales opportunity to promote yourself?

Now, I want to be clear, you don't use a cover letter as an attachment with your resume. Use the body of the email like the old cover letter. What do you do you? How do you demonstrate the fit? It’s really very simple.

So, whether you are sending it to a recruiter or a hiring manager, you might start off by saying, “I am submitting my resume for a role that I understand is available in your organization for (such and such). My understanding is this is what you're looking for.”

In the left-hand column, you put a list of skills and, in the right-hand column, you indicate how long and how recently you used those skills, used those technologies or employed those qualifications. How long and how recently. If you don't have one or two of those items. You omit them from your list. Then, from there, you could conclude by saying, “as you can see, I matchup very strongly with the position and I look forward to hearing from you and meeting with you in the next week. If I don't hear from you I will put in a quick call to you . . . “ Something along those lines that ties the bow so that there is going to be a next step. But you use it as a sales opportunity, linking your qualifications with the role.

So, no, you don't need to use it; it is not a requirement that you use a cover letter. But since few people are submitting resumes that demonstrate a perfect fit, why not use the body of your email instead of using it as stupid whitespace, use it as a sales opportunity to promote yourself?


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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