There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about whether or not to include a cover letter with job applications.
One perspective: A cover letter customized for the company and position is a best practice. A well crafted cover letter can give you an edge, and just might be what separates you from the crowd.
Another perspective: Cover letters are a waste of time. They are rarely read. If it’s not a standout, it’s just one more thing the employer won’t open. At worst, a cover letter may hurt your chances, especially if it’s boring.
What’s the right way to look at it for us?
We work with a wide variety of clients and employers, so to write or not to write a cover letter is probably a decision you’ll make on a case-by-case basis. There will certainly be a range of employer expectations depending on which industry or job you are targeting for your clients.
That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering whether or not to write a cover letter with or for your clients:
DO NOT include a cover letter if…
- the instructions say not to do so. If instructions aren’t followed, the application will likely go into the “circular file”.
- it will be easy for the employer to tell that the applicant did not write the letter themselves. If a client cannot write a cover letter for themselves, don’t misrepresent them by giving the employer the impression that they are fully literate and fluent in English. Employers don’t like surprises.
- a cover letter won’t be considered or isn’t appropriate for the job or application process. Many online application systems do not include space for a cover letter for hourly positions, for example.
DO include a cover letter if…
- the application is for a more professional job. If you have a client who is qualified for professional positions, make sure to involve them in the cover letter writing process so that they can learn this important job application skill.
- there is an instruction or option (e.g. sometimes it’s optional on online applications) to include a cover letter. Take advantage of any opportunity to help your client stand out.
- there is a need to explain gaps in employment or minimal employment (as is often the case with refugees).
Two additional ideas to consider:
- In cases where the employer does not require or want a cover letter but you feel like some explanation is necessary to highlight your client’s skills, consider adding a “Summary of Skills” list or Background section to their resume where you can point out what isn’t as obvious from the simple resume.
- Some employer partners may prefer a simple email from you which gives them basic information on your client instead of a cover letter. Sometimes referred to as a “candidate profile”, this note would summarize skills, work history, and language ability.
For more on cover letters check out this post from www.greatresumesfast.com.