Is it necessary to submit a cover letter with my application? Do I really have to fill out all the fields on the application even though the answers are in my resume? These are just two examples of questions job seekers face when submitting resumes and applications. Happily, many of these questions can be easily demystified, giving you the tools you need to ensure your submission stands out in a good way.
Are cover letters necessary?
In some cases, the answer is quite simple: yes. When a job advertisement asks for it, there is absolutely a reason. If you choose not to submit one, this may be something that screens out your resume early on simply through lack of following instruction.
If it’s not required, then you have a choice. Personally, I always recommend it but with one very important caveat: the cover letter must be customized to the job. The purpose of a cover letter is to help you stand out from the influx of faceless resumes. One of the biggest benefits of this document is its ability to connect the dots for a reader. In other words, the resume lists the skills you have, but it’s the cover letter that really explains to the employer why you are a good match for a specific role.
On some websites, like CareerBuilder or Indeed, you sometimes have the option to save a cover letter that will automatically send when you click apply. This time-saving step seems like a lifesaver, but it’s not the ideal approach. Not customizing the letter to the job makes for a weaker approach because there is nothing that speaks to why your qualifications are an ideal match for this specific role. There is no compelling case for why they should consider you. While the customization is more time-consuming, it can have a huge positive impact on your likelihood of securing an interview.
Online Job Applications
Online applications have become a staple in the job search process. Sometimes these questions feel redundant, especially because they almost always ask for information already present in your resume. Unfortunately, writing “see resume” does not fulfill the requirement. Having endured applications, extensive online surveys, and online customer service simulations, I completely understand the desire to find ways to work around these seemingly unnecessary steps—they add time to the process.
Regardless, they’re a necessary evil and very often serve a purpose on the back end of things. For example, I have heard of many companies (and actually worked for one) that use this application process as a test; those who haven’t put in the time and effort to get it perfect have essentially screened themselves out of the process. But then there are other organizations where the information provided is vital to how their system works and serves a very practical purpose. Either way, taking the shortcut may mean your resume gets screened out.
One last thought to keep in mind is that some online job boards or applications create resume-like documents using the information you submit. As you can imagine, missing or incomplete information with the data-entry translates into a less than ideal outcome.
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist