Do you really need a cover letter when you apply for jobs? Can you get by with just a resume? Or is sending a quick message to a contact on LinkedIn, for example, enough? Does it matter how you outreach to potential employers and how you promote your accomplishments - and yourself? How about if the company doesn't ask for a letter? Should you include a cover letter even when it's not required?
I asked several career experts for their take on cover letters. Susan Heathfield, About.com's Human Resources Expert, says, "Your cover letter is particularly important. It's the job searcher's opportunity to help the potential employer see that the applicant's skills and experience match what the employer seeks. In the current economic climate, with the scarcity of jobs, a well-written cover letter distinguishes your application."
Career expert Heather Huhman notes that "Cover letters allow you--in narrative form--to tell the employer exactly why hiring you, instead of the numerous other candidates, is a good decision.
I agree. I'm of the school of thought that a cover letter is the best way to make a good impression on a prospective employer and a way to show that employer why you are a strong candidate for the job.
What should you include in your cover letter? The best way to write a cover letter that will help you get an interview is to write a targeted letter that specifically relates your experience to the job posting. Here's how to write a targeted cover letter. Before you start, check out these cover letter examples to get ideas for your own letters.