What is a Cover Letter?
In the simplest words, a cover letter is a letter that covers you, i.e. it is a letter of introduction, a summary of sorts. Imagine this, you get some mail, snail or e-mail doesn’t matter, and inside is a product brochure. Now honestly speaking, how likely are you to actually read that brochure and actually consider buying the product? Not that likely right? You are more likely to immediately mark that as spam and throw it in the trash, and never think about it again.
Now in this scenario, replace you with an interviewer and replace the brochure with your resume and ask yourself this, how much time does the interviewer give the brochure before throwing it out completely. This is where the cover letter helps.
Imagine if instead of just a brochure, you had also been sent a letter, which addressed you on a personal level and stated why they think this brochure and the product it is selling would personally be beneficial to you and your company and the many ways it would actually help you. You would be at least read the letter, if not the brochure and hopefully if the letter was good enough and persuasive enough then if might convince you to take a look at the brochure just to see what the fuss was all about.
This is exactly what the purpose of a cover letter is. It is a letter of introduction, which introduces you to the reader, which in this case would be the HR personnel or manager, or whoever you are applying to for a job. In addition to introducing you to the person in question, the cover letter, in summary, should also address why you want the position, why you want to work for that company in particular, as well as why should they look at you as a potential candidate among so many others.
The cover letter acts as an accompaniment or an appetizer to the main course which is the resume or the curriculum vitae (CV). The purpose of the cover letter is to ensure that the person will like to read the attached resume and/or CV, rather than just toss is away. After all they must get dozens if not hundreds of resumes and CVs in a day; yours should not be just another one in the pile. The cover letter is what can help set yours apart from the rest.
Cover letters can be divided into two main categories: the application letter and the inquiry letter. As their name suggests, the application letter should be used when a person is applying for a known job opening, while the inquiry letter should be used to inquire whether there is a job opening and if yes, would they consider you.
In either case, the main objective of the cover letter remains the same, which is bring attention to you and your resume or CV, with the purpose of you being consider for the job position. Think of the cover letter as the initial sales pitch which intends to hook the customer before you can dazzle them with the uses and benefits of product itself, which in this case would be you.
While a cover letter is not mandatory, it is often recommended as it shows your dedication and does make you stand out from the rest of the crowd by making you appear more professional and experienced.