When submitting a job application, you might wonder, “Should I include a cover letter?” and maybe, “Does anyone really read these things?”
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t all that clear.
There’s a gray area that comes into play when determining whether or not you should include a cover letter when applying to a position. Including one works really well in some instances and in others, it’s best just to let your resume do the talking.
Confused? Let me shine some light on the subject matter for you!
First off, let's talk about the benefits of including a cover letter. Think of your resume and cover letter as layers of a two-layer onion. (Though a two-layer red velvet cake does sound better right now.) The cover letter is the outer layer, which tells your story and how it relates to what you can ultimately bring to the table at X company. It is NOT a recap of your resume. Your resume serves as the inner layer, the core of your experience, outlining the very specific details of what you accomplished throughout each role.
If you were just meeting someone for the first time, you wouldn’t start off with, “I worked at X for this many years and here is what I did,” right? You need an icebreaker to get that conversation started. That’s exactly the purpose of your cover letter. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, you want to introduce yourself at a high level to let the employer know who you are. (If you’re looking for cover letter examples, we suggest this uptowork blog which covers the topic nicely.)
Now, here’s where the gray area comes back into play. Take a look at the below situations:
Situation: There is nowhere for you to include a cover letter in your job application, and the employer doesn’t ask for one.
Sometimes, job applications will be so lengthy that it takes hours on end to fill in the blanks. Other times, they will be so abbreviated that all they ask for is your resume. You may be wondering if you should still include a cover letter. In this case, if a cover letter is not emphasized, don’t spend the extra time trying to fit in in somewhere. The reason is because the employer may not even have the time or resources to review the cover letter in addition to the flood of resumes they receive.
Situation: You are submitting an application directly through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn makes it super easy to apply to jobs through the “Easy Apply” platform. It automatically includes your full professional profile along with your application. However, it’s recommended to still submit your resume along with your LinkedIn profile so hiring managers/recruiters can have easy access to it. When it comes to submitting a cover letter with your LinkedIn application, it doesn’t hurt! Especially if you are really excited about the position. Write a cover letter outlining why you are interested in the role and company so the recipient has a full package containing your qualifications. Because cover letters should be tailored to the specific role you are applying for, it might not make sense to include one with every single application you submit through LinkedIn, especially because your full profile with a (hopefully) updated professional summary acts as an abbreviated cover letter.
Situation: You are referred to a role by a professional acquaintance and are asked to email your resume directly to the hiring manager.
We all know how important it is to utilize your professional network to be warmly introduced to someone hiring for a role you are applying to. In this ideal situation, sending along a cover letter would work in your favor. Why? Because you already have an “in” through a mutual connection which means, most likely, your application will be moved to the top of the proverbial pile. Including a short introduction of yourself and how much you know about the company is a good start to standing out against other candidates for the role. Do not regurgitate your resume, but rather, highlight any specific accomplishments and what excites you about the opportunity of joining X company.
Bottom line: there is no straight answer to the question “Should I include my cover letter with my application?” Just use my advice and your best judgment to determining whether or not it would help or hinder your chances of consideration.