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Cover Letters in the Application Process

Should cover letters still be used in the job market? In years gone by there were three basic components when applying for a job: resume’, application and cover letter. These days a job application may include credit checks, background checks, drug testing and assessment testing.

Job hunters may feel disenchanted with the added complications and sacrifice the cover letter in the process. But how important are cover letters in 2016?

Are Cover Letters Still Important?

The cover letter has become secondary in the job search to many applicants who would rather utilize their time applying for more jobs instead of adding cover letters that tend to be time-consuming. In the race to complete as many applications as possible, many applicants have simply decided to not bother with a cover letter. Technology has made it easier than ever for job applicants to literally apply for hundreds of jobs per week with the click of a button.

Social networking sites like LinkedIn have also caused some applicants to feel that the cover letter is unnecessary. Many feel that their qualifications and skills are highlighted in the resume and again on LinkedIn.

Why are cover letters important?

Who reads a cover letter? With more and more people vying for the same positions, the job market has become extremely competitive. This means that companies may receive hundreds, or even thousands, of resumes’ for just one open position. How does an applicant stand out in this vast sea of resumes’?

The easiest answer is the cover letter. Think about it. If an employer receives 200 resumes’ and only 10 of those have cover letters, how many will stand out? The easy money is on the 10 that included a cover letter.

Cover letters that are properly written allow employers to easily discern how much effort was put into the job search. Cover letters that are tailored specifically to the open position signal to the employer that the applicant not only read the job specifications, but that they believe they are a good fit.

The Guts of a Good Cover Letter

Cover letters need to stand out to make them worth the time. U.S. News points out that using only one cover letter template can make an applicant look lazy to the employer. Instead, customize each cover letter based on each individual position. Additionally, having a bad cover letter can be even more damaging than not including one at all. Spelling errors or incorrect grammar can easily mean your application will end up in the shredding box instead of on the hiring manager’s desk.

A good cover letter will have a proper salutation. Try to avoid “to whom it may concern” and instead include the job department, and when available, the name of the hiring manager. In addition, be ready to wow the reader with a great opening line. Highlight a skill you have that is in the job specifications, explain why the job should be yours or use a sentence to illustrate why you want the job.

A cover letter should be used to explain what can’t be explained in your resume’. For instance,  why is there a gap in your employment? Did you take time off to raise kids, have an illness or go back to school? These gaps are not easily explained on a resume’ and can cause your application to be discounted very early in the hiring process. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain these types of situations. Additionally, an applicant that has a string of jobs in a short period of time will likely be frowned upon. A cover letter is a good way to explain a complicated job history.

Finally, be sure to thank the employer for taking the time to consider your application. This is also a good place to reiterate your interest in this specific job. Take the time to research the company and point out a reason you want to work there. Each step you take to stand out gets your application closer to the call-back pile.

Additional tips and templates can be found on many job placement sites, including Monster.com.

Cover letters are just one aspect of the hiring process. Let SB Checks guide you through the rest of the process. Call (888) 725-2535 today for more info!