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Writing Cover Letters

Should I include a cover letter with my resume?

Many hiring managers these days would likely admit that they do little more than only glance at cover letters. Even so, twelve percent of the 2,546 hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder, indicated that they would automatically dismiss resumes that aren't accompanied by cover letters.

With that in mind, whether or not to include a cover letter with your resume is ultimately up to you (unless, of course, a job post specifically requests it).

But, why risk losing any job opportunity before you even get your foot in the door, simply because you didn't include a cover letter?

Including cover letters with resumes has been a standard practice for a long time. Even if hiring managers do little more than glance at them, they might still expect you to include one with each of your resumes, even if they didn't indicate it in their job posts.

Whether standard or expectation, complying makes you appear to be a knowledgeable applicant who knows how to professionally apply for a job.

When it gets more than a glance, a good cover letter can make you stand out among competing candidates too. Your resume is a summary of your qualifications, but your cover letter is your sales pitch.

So, if you've done your homework and written it well, your cover letter will make your qualifications stand out among those of other job candidates and:

  • Properly introduce you
  • Explain what your resume can't
  • Show that you've researched the company
  • Demonstrate your written communication skills
  • Convince the recipient to grant you an interview

Fatal Cover Letter Mistakes

In another survey by CareerBuilder, a significant percentage of 650+ hiring managers indicated they would automatically reject applicants who submit cover letters that:

  • Plagiarize the related job postings (44 percent)
  • Are generic form letters, not custom-tailored to the jobs (48 percent)
  • Include grammatical or spelling errors (49 percent)

It's a good idea to incorporate relevant key words from the job post when highlighting your qualifications and explaining why you're suited for the job; but, surround them with your own words instead of plagiarizing the job post.

Tailor each cover letter to the job and company. Unless otherwise indicated in the job post, type the recipient's name in the salutation instead of a generic one (such as Dear Sir or Madam). If the recipient's name is not mentioned in the job post, ask for it using the contact information. Also include the job code if provided.

Proofread each cover letter for grammatical and spelling errors. Never incorporate shorthand and cutesy chat-room stuff, such as u for you, TNX for thanks and emoticons (e.g., happy faces). Stick to business letter standards.

More about Cover Letters

For samples, examples, templates, formats and writing tips, see Cover Letters. The section includes a cover letter example, sample and template that you may download for free, courtesy of It also includes a cross-link to professionally-written sample cover letters in the Resume and Letter Center. All specifically mentioned here are properly formatted as business letters.

Tip: If you don't feel comfortable writing cover letters on your own, consider hiring a professional resume writing service to write them for you. It's worth it!
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