What is the purpose of a cover letter? Does anyone read them?

A cover letter accompanies your resume and is essentially your electronic elevator pitch. It’s your chance to sell yourself as an employee and summarize why you think you’d be a great candidate for this particular role.

We get it—job hunting is tough, and spending the extra time and energy crafting a witty customized cover letter can be a pain. But you’re really missing out on a great opportunity to sell yourself if you don’t do it. While we cannot guarantee that every recruiter and hiring manager will read your cover letter, but many do, so it’s worth investing the effort!

What your cover letter should include:

  • Why you want this job and not just any job. What about this job drew you in? Is it the type of work, the company, the products, the culture?
  • Briefly mention experience,/skills/education you have that are specifically relevant to this job.
  • If you’re underqualified, acknowledge it and convince them why you deserve a shot anyways.
  • If you’re overqualified, explain why you’re applying for a job that may seem ‘below you’.
  • Share compelling reasons why you might be a good fit for the company that aren’t suitable for your resume (for example, you’re a fitness junkie applying to a job at Adidas).

Cover letter do’s and don’ts:

  • Do write one—always. If applying via email, your cover letter can even go right in the email body.
  • Do try to address it personally—check the company website and LinkedIn for contacts.
  • Do be brief—one page, no exceptions (preferably 3-4 short paragraphs).
  • Do pick out relevant snippets from your resume to highlight which correspond to the job.
  • Do demonstrate any understanding you have of the company and how you’ll fit in.
  • Do use spell check. And ideally have someone else proofread it for you too.
  • Do tie your resume in with your cover letter—use the same font, headers, footers, etc.
  • Don’t send the same cookie-cutter letter with every application.
  • Don’t just repeat what’s in your resume.
  • Don’t begin all your sentences with “I”—make it about them too.
  • Don’t use ‘fancy’ or unprofessional fonts (read: comic sans).
  • Don’t forget to include all your contact information.

Really it comes down to this: does your cover letter make you sound like a likeable and employable human being? Because that’s really the point of a cover letter. Remember, hiring is people finding other people that they want to work with. A cover letter can humanize you far more than a resume can. A well-written cover letter should make the reader stop and think, “Wow, this person sounds amazing, I have to meet them!”