Have you heard the rumors? They say that everything important about your career is listed within the pages of your resume. Why would you possibly want to waste your time putting together a cover letter these days?
Applying online is easy. All you need to do is upload your resume and click submit. If you’re qualified, the company will call you. Right?
Wrong. As you can imagine, this couldn’t be further from the truth. But, somehow, it’s a question I’m asked every week by job seekers – and surprisingly, even a well-known publication wanted to know the answer.
In today’s competitive job market, the cover letter is more important than ever. Here’s the thing: There’s a decent chance you’re going to be working in a different industry, for a different company, and with a different title very soon. But first, you have to convince a hiring manager as to why you’re the best fit for the role. You have to explain how your current experience as a corporate project manager can translate to an awesome new career in nonprofit fundraising. And your resume alone just isn’t going to cut it.
Your cover letter is your personal narrative. It’s your opportunity to explain directly to the hiring manager why you are the best fit. Don’t leave them guessing. Be direct, and be specific.
Imagine you were the hiring manager. You received resumes from two equally qualified candidates. Only one took the time to explain why they’re the best fit and why they’re passionate about the job. Who would you pick?
If you’re wondering where to begin, start with the same header you use for your resume. It’s an easy way to make all of your materials match. Don’t be afraid to reiterate things that are listed in your resume. There is no guarantee anyone will actually read your resume, but your cover letter’s goal is to convince the hiring manager to take a closer look at you.
Mention which position you’re applying for. Explain confidently why you’re a great fit. Highlight relevant work and educational experience. If you have a hobby, passion, or side project that makes you more qualified than the average candidate, say so. Leave out personal details that are not relevant to the role.
Admittedly, one difference in today’s cover letter versus the cover letter of 20 years ago is that it extends beyond the reach of a piece of paper. We tell our personal narratives every day online when we share opinions and photos on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites.
There’s nothing preventing your future employer from researching you. You’ve spent time perfecting your personal brand. Don’t let it go to waste by representing yourself poorly in the online world. Interviewing is like attending a dinner party. You never know who you might meet or what their views may be.
Work to tell your own story in your own way, and you’ll go further. You are much more likely to land the job you really want when you don’t buy into the myth that the cover letter is dead.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Memphis Daily News.