The Cover Letter Mystery

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

What do I need to include in my cover letter or is it no longer necessary to have a cover letter?

While a cover letter is not required, it definitely is a nice thing to have.  Think of it like the bow on top of a present.  It’s not something that is required, but it brings everything together and makes it look good.  The same can be said for a cover letter, it pulls together your resume, the position you are applying for and why you are interested in the position.

Now that it’s decided a cover letter is a good idea, what all needs to be included?  First and foremost you are going to want to individualize each cover letter for each position that you apply for.  Remember a few posts back when I talked about key words in resumes?  Well, key words are also important in cover letters.  You will want to make sure that you read, read and re-read the job description of the position that you are applying for, highlighting the key skills that are listed.  Once you have the skills highlighted, you will want to incorporate them into your cover letter and how they match up with your experience. 

Another tip with cover letters is to use the same or similar verbiage in your cover letter that was used in the job description.  Often times when recruiters are searching their database of past applicants, they will use verbiage or phrases used in the job description in their search.  Using their verbiage will help to ensure that your resume comes up in their search.

In addition to skills and keywords taken from the job description, be sure to include why you feel you would be a good fit for the position. If the position would require relocation, state why you’re open to relocation.

Now that you know what needs to be included in your cover letter, time to get busy!

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: or on twitter: resumesurvisldy


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeannette Paladino
    Apr 08, 2011 @ 20:50:53

    The cover letter can be crucial and I think it is as important as the resume and one should always be included, in my view. I’m helping someone reply to ads on job boards which mostly are switched over to major company websites and they always ask for a cover letter to be uploaded, too. It may be optional in some cases, but mostly there is an * which means it’s required. Excellent point about remembering to include key words.


  2. Sherryl Perry
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 12:59:54

    Excellent advice. I’m helping my daughter on a massive job search and I agree that having a cover letter helps to make her resume stand out. Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, I’m going to poke around here on your site and forward a few of your posts to her. Maybe she’ll listen to you. After all, what 30+ year old wants advice from her mom. 🙂


  3. Catarina Alexon
    Apr 10, 2011 @ 08:55:56

    Great advise.

    Just don’t copy and paste the skills specified in the job description into your cover letter. You have to use the key words but re-write how it was written in the job description. If not it shows that you haven’t devoted much time to the letter.


  4. Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)
    Apr 10, 2011 @ 19:10:52

    I like your analogy of the cover letter being a bow on a present. So true… and in my opinion a necessity. If I received a resume on it’s own, I’d feel like the applicant didn’t take the time to introduce themselves… or that they had a chip on their shoulder in that they expected to be hired on credentials instead of people skills. Agree too with Catarina’s comment that copying / pasting is a “no-no”.


  5. John
    Apr 11, 2011 @ 08:22:35

    As a recruiter for a Fortune 500, I discount the cover letter because I expect it to be written to my job posting. It can’t get you an interview but it can disqualify you as a candidate if it contains misspellings, grammatical errors, etc and/or is just poorly written. If you don’t send in a cover letter, but your resume has all the keywords (skills), then you’ll be found.


  6. Susan Oakes
    Apr 11, 2011 @ 19:21:52

    I was a recruiter for a while and the one thing I liked to see was the key successes on a short cover letter that related to the job. That way I could scan to see if it matched up or not and saved going through the CV.


  7. Jill Tooley
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 16:15:07

    I prefer to have cover letters with applicants’ resumes because it’s a chance to get additional insights. It’s evident when people just copy and paste (sometimes because they’ve accidentally left in snippets from different job postings) and I can usually tell how passionate a person is about the job by reading that first page they’ve written. This may stray from the norms, but I’d further prefer to have creative cover letters than dry and boring ones. While it may appear more professional to include everything you think the employer wants to hear, you also have to consider other applicants. Is your cover letter going to be memorable after it’s put down or buried in an inbox? If not, then perhaps it’s time to re-tool! Although, that could just be my creative side talking…obviously jobs are going to call for various kinds of professionalism or quirkiness! 🙂


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