What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?

  • Posted by Nicole Adams

The purpose of a cover letter is to give a recruiter or hiring manager additional details about you as a candidate that gives them a better understanding of what you’ll bring to the organization if you’re hired. This is often the first impression they’ll have of you, so the cover letter you write should always motivate readers to want to know more about you.

What’s the Purpose of a Cover Letter and is it Necessary?

Also known as a motivation letter, a cover letter (CL) is a formal business letter which is often your first contact with a prospective employer, and serves as an introduction of you and your background experience. While a resume offers the technical and logistical details of your skills and work experience, a CL offers insight into your soft skills, attitude, personality and motivations. 

While it’s usually best to avoid drawing direct attention to gaps in your employment, a CL gives you a place to explain changes in your career path. If you were laid off, took time off to travel, or stepped away from work to raise children, your CL offers a great place to explain your situation. It’s also a way to showcase other valuable experience such as engaging in volunteer work or projects in your community that convey a sense of what you’ll bring to the table if you are hired.

A CL can also help distinguish you from other applications. When struggling to select an employee among candidates with the same levels of education or industry expertise, a CL can help differentiate you from other applicants. In addition to providing further insight into who you are, your CL is also an excellent method to show the hiring agent you’re an efficient communicator, and indicates your ability to make a persuasive presentation.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

If you’re currently employed, express why you’re interested in this new or different role whether it’s a career progression, personal interest, or that you’re just looking for a change. If you’re in between jobs or have employment gaps, use your CL to convey your interest and also explain why you’ve been out of work previously. Highlight your accomplishments and any additional skills that would benefit the organization if you were selected to fill the position.

Demonstrating an understanding of the company’s history and the work they do reflects your level of interest in the role. Concentrate on why you desire to work in that particular organization or field, and focus on what you can offer the employer rather than what you can gain by working for their organization. Look through the company website, find out what you can about the culture and be prepared to discuss its history and evolution.

Try to address your CL to the person and job title who could hire you. Your CL should be original, brief (one page) and an example of your ability to write clearly and concisely. Use powerful action phrases and also reflect your personality and style by balancing professionalism with personal warmth and friendliness. CL’s are usually in a block-style format with all text beginning at the left margin and without indentations. 

Ultimately a cover letter is a smart and strategic way to convey your motivation for applying for a job and to showcase your personality and additional skills. A well thought out CL shows your commitment to the job, as it takes extra time to research, plan and write one. Your dream job awaits, start your search here