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cover letter 101
Resume Cover Pages Aren’t Really Optional — Here’s Why You Should Have One
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AnnaMarie Houlis,
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Writing up your resume to send out for job applications? You probably already know that writing a resume takes some serious time. Depending on the jobs for which you're applying, you'll have to tailor and tweak your resume time and time again for each industry, company and job role. You might leave out some experiences and skills on one version of your resume, and you might include those experiences and skills on another version. You'll mirror language from job adverts in different versions of your resume, and you'll have to reword that language for other versions.

It's all about customizing your resume to show recruiters and hiring managers why you're the best person for the job. Another way you nail in your point is by including a cover sheet for your resume. But what is a cover sheet, do you really need one and, if you do decide to include one, what should go on it?

Here's everything you need to know about cover sheets for resumes.

What is a cover sheet for resume?

A cover sheet for your resume, also known as a cover letter, is a sheet that will complement your resume. You turn in a cover sheet with your resume to make your application for a job more well-rounded. A cover sheet goes into more depth about the experiences and skills on your resume, and it may highlight some specific experiences or skills that are ideal for the job for which you're applying.

A cover sheet doesn't only reiterate what's on your resume, however. It also dives into why you're interested in working for that particular company, why that company should hire you specifically, and any other details about the company, such as ways in which you know you'll be able to help the company. 

Do I need a cover page for my resume?

While you don't necessarily need a cover page for your resume, you should have one. It's easy to send your resume out to hundreds of companies. It shows that you took the time and made the effort to garner a company's attention, however, if you write a personalized cover letter.

Of course, if you've been recommended to a position by a friend and you already have the job in the bag but the hiring manager just wanted to see your resume for the purposes of following procedures, you probably can get away with just sending along your resume. Likewise, if you work in a creative field and are pitching stories, concepts, images or ideas to an outlet or a company, you might not have to include a cover letter (or even a resume); an email with links to your portfolio may suffice in some case.

To play it safe, however, you will want to have a resume and a cover page for all jobs for which you apply, unless there are specific circumstances that don't oblige you to send them.

What is in a cover page?

Your cover page should be a complement to your resume.

You'll also want to start off your cover page with a line or two about the exact job for which you're applying (to be clear from the start!) and how you found the job opening — this is helpful information for recruiters and hiring managers, so they know how their job advertising is working (and what isn't working). Following that, you'll want to explain exactly why you want to work for this company or why that job, in particular, interests you.

Once you share your interest, you'll want to get into your experiences. You should hone in on some specific experiences and skills written on your resume that are particularly useful for the job for which you're applying. You'll want to play up those experiences and skills and dive into more depth with them.

In sharing more about your experiences and skills, you can let recruiters and hiring managers know how you would be able to help the company at hand. This is a chance for you to find opportunities to use your skills. If the company is a startup, for example, you might want to talk about your experience helping startups grow — and sharing numbers for proof. Always bring back your point full circle to how you can provide value to the company.

How to write a successful cover page.

Writing a successful cover page depends on the job at hand. That said, a cover letter that hits home is one that shows recruiters and hiring managers why you're qualified for the job and, ultimately, lands you the job.

Writing a successful cover page means personalizing the cover page. You have to take the time to tailor your cover letter even more than you tailor your resume. It should speak directly to the hiring manager reading the cover letter. And it should sell your value for them in particular.

Formatting a cover page.

A cover page doesn't have any specific format, but you might consider formatting it like this:

Dear [Name of Hiring Manager],

Please accept my application for [position], which I discovered [where you found the job advertisement]. I am eager to work for [company] because [reason(s) you want to work at the company].

I am confident that I'm the best candidate for the job given my experiences and skills. My experience as a [relevant job title] has positioned me for this role because [reason(s) why your experiences and skills will help in the new role]. 

Please feel free to call me at [phone number] or email me at [email]. I look forward to talking more about this opportunity, and I appreciate your time and consideration.

Best,
[Your First and Last Name]

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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