The answer is a resounding yes to the former and no to the latter. A cover letter has a completely different function than your resume, and without one you can seriously hamper your opportunities.
Your cover letter gives you the opportunity to tell your story: why you’re interested in that company and that position, what makes you unique as a candidate, which skills you have that directly match what they are looking for, and why they should hire you, rather than someone else. Without a cover letter, you’re flattened into a list of educational accomplishments, rather than a dynamic individual.
So what should be included in your cover letter? The checklist below is a good starting point, but make sure to review our sample letters on the Career Services webpage and schedule an appointment to work on yours!
Cover Letter Checklist
- My heading layout matches my resume
- I’ve addressed it to an actual person, not just “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Committee”
- My first paragraph connects me to the company via my history, interests, location, or field and provides context for my interest in their organization
- My second paragraph speaks directly to my interest in the position I am applying for, and includes references to the goals, mission, and services of the company.
- My third paragraph connects my skills, achievements, and experiences directly to the job posting, using the same language and keyword that the posting uses. It shows that I understand what the position entails and that I have the ability to succeed in it.
- My fourth paragraph restates my interest in the company, my excitement to talk further about the opportunity, and thanks him/her/them for his/her/their time.
- I’ve included a professional signoff and my name, with a space for my signature in between
- I've saved the document as a PDF to print, sign, and scan.