Is a Cover Letter Necessary? (17 Questions and Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing a cover letter is often a key part of the job application process, and a well-written letter may influence a hiring manager's decision to call you for an interview. Different jobs and hiring agents may have various requirements about whether a cover letter is necessary. Learning what cover letters are, why they're important and when to use them may help determine if it's appropriate to write one when applying for your next job. In this article, we answer the question 'Is a cover letter necessary?' and provide detailed answers to 16 other common questions about cover letters.

Related: Cover Letter vs. Resume

Is a cover letter necessary?

When applying for a new job, you may wonder if a cover letter is necessary. A cover letter may be a requirement for some situations, such as if the hiring manager requests one. A cover letter may be necessary when:

  • you want to add important information not present on your resume

  • you have a personal connection or referral to the job

  • you're applying for a high-level position

  • you have minimal experience and want to assure the employer of your skills

Related: Q&A: Should You Include a Cover Letter?

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a one-page document that's usually 250 to 400 words long. You can attach it to your resume as part of your job application to introduce yourself as a candidate, summarise your professional background and explain why you make a good and unique candidate for a particular job. A good cover letter may gain the hiring manager's interest and motivate them to read your resume.

Related: Q&A: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? (With Steps)

Are cover letters important?

A cover letter may be important for several reasons. Hiring managers may request them if they expect a large pool of applicants and want to learn more about a candidate. Writing one can demonstrate that you have made extra effort in the application process. A cover letter is also important because it can make your application unique and improve your chances of getting the job. If there's a situation in which you have similar qualifications to another candidate, a good cover letter explaining why you're a good fit for the job may influence the final decision.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter For Internship (With Example)

Can you use cover letters when they're optional?

You can write a cover letter even when optional in a job application. It may be beneficial to write one because it may show extra effort and dedication to the application and your work. This may increase your chances of getting the job. The only time in which it might be better not to write a cover letter is when the application requests you not to.

What's the difference between a cover letter and a resume?

A cover letter and resume help you communicate your qualifications and experience to demonstrate that you're a good candidate for a job, but they both serve a different purpose. A resume communicates your skills, educational background and professional experience, while a cover letter's purpose is to provide a comprehensive overview of yourself as an applicant or individual. Cover letters may focus on current and future objectives, while a resume focuses on your experiences and accomplishments. Resumes have multiple sections, while the cover letter usually has a paragraph format.

What information does a cover letter contain?

A cover letter provides information about who you are as a professional and individual. You may mention a goal you're working towards, a core belief and a personal anecdote. General content in your cover letter includes the heading and greeting, information about how you found the job and what you can do for the company and a call to action to encourage the employer to contact you. If there are any questions you anticipate a recruiter may ask, you can address them here. For example, if you have gaps on your resume, you can explain them in your cover letter.

Is it acceptable to include the contents of your cover letter in the body of an email?

You can attach your cover letter separately from your email to free up space in the email. It allows you to make a good impression and save time. Explain that you've attached a cover letter that outlines your commitment to your industry and the target role and invite them to read more.

How do you address your cover letter?

A cover letter is a formal letter, so it's best to address it formally. You may address it to the hiring manager, recruiter or department head. Address them by their name if you know it. For example, Dear Mrs Siong. If you don't know their name, try to research it by checking the job advert or calling the company. You may also use a generic title, such as Dear hiring manager, Dear sales manager or Dear finance manager.

Related: How to Address a Cover Letter (With Tips and Examples)

Is it necessary to change your cover letter for every position you apply for?

It's advisable to change your cover letter with every application you submit. Personalising a cover letter allows you to address the specific requirements the employer is looking for, which can increase your chances of getting the job. Research the company to address some of their needs to make your cover letter more unique. Some employers may use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to analyse cover letters faster. An ATS may use keywords to scan the cover letters in the job description.

What's the correct tone for a cover letter?

The appropriate tone for your cover letter is polite, formal and professional. You may also be able to use a tone relevant to the company you're applying to. For example, if you're applying for social media posts or entertainment companies, you can research the company's social media account to match their conversation style and language.

If you have minimal experience, how do you address it in the cover letter?

A cover letter is an effective way to explain your suitability for a position even if you have limited experience. You can discuss your skills and character strengths and explain how they may be beneficial to the position. This allows you to highlight what qualifies you for the role, apart from experience.

Can you use bullet points in the cover letter?

The goal of a cover letter is to tell a story and gain the hiring manager's attention as you explain why you're the right candidate for the job. It's better to use bullet points on your resume rather than the cover letter. When writing a cover letter, use paragraphs to maintain a good flow and develop your points more effectively.

Is it acceptable to use templates to write a cover letter?

You can use a template to guide you when writing a cover letter. Some key parts may feature in many cover letters, and a template can help you structure your letter effectively. You may include a heading and salutations, explain how you learnt about the job opportunity, share what you're offering the company and end with a call to action to invite further contact.

Related: Short Cover Letter Samples (Plus Format, Tips and FAQ)

Is it helpful to get professional services to write your cover letter?

A professional writer may help you express your ideas well and improve your chances of getting the job as they have a strong command of the language and can select words that effectively describe your skills and qualities. Using the services of a writer can also help ensure your letter is free from errors. It's also important for the cover letter to reflect your ideas and voice. You may also write the letter on your own and ask a colleague, family member or a friend to read it and provide feedback on the content and check for any errors.

Related: How to End a Cover Letter (With Examples and Tips)

What are the right steps to format a cover letter?

To format your cover letter professionally, focus on elements like the font, layout and length. Use a professional font for the cover letter and a minimum font size of 11. Professional fonts may be easier to read. Organise your writing in two or three paragraphs and ensure the cover letter is one page long. Remember to sign off professionally with phrases like yours faithfully, yours sincerely, kind regards or best regards.

Read more: How to Format a Cover Letter

How do you make your cover letter more effective?

Talk about your accomplishments but also express how and why you got them. Focus on your personal story and personality, address the job requirements and explain what you can offer as a candidate. Other tips to improve your cover letter include adding numbers to quantify your achievements, explaining why you're interested in the position and writing in a clear, concise way.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter

How do you write a cover letter if you're unemployed?

If you're unemployed, briefly discuss what you've been doing since leaving your last job. Mention constructive activities, such as advancing your education, caregiving, blogging, consulting, volunteering or teaching. If appropriate, state that you're available to begin work immediately or indicate when you can begin a new job.


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