Your resume says a lot about you, however, not every situation is the same for every person. This is where a cover letter comes in. Whereas the rest of your resume gives basic cut and dry facts about your history and references, a cover letter allows you to say what you want to say to your potential employer. It is a chance to let the person and personality behind the resume shine through. The cover letter is your chance to get personal with your potential employer so he or she sees more of you than just a piece of paper.
Your cover letter would be the ideal place to explain any gaps in your work history. Let’s say, for example, that you took off work to go to school for two years or, if you’re a woman, you took off a year or so to have a baby. These are both solid reasons to have a gap in your work record, however, if you do not use the cover letter to your advantage by explaining you individual situation and circumstances, then your potential employer has no idea why the gap is there and may see it as a negative quality, which could actually hurt your chances of landing the job.
Your cover letter is also a place where you can explain in-depth any special skills that you have that could benefit the company or any particular classes or training you may have taken that is not seen on your resume. Yes, your resume does list your skills and educational history, however, let’s suppose you are going in for secretarial job. You do have a degree in Psychology, however, you also took many accounting classes as electives. Your resume would only reflect your degree in Psychology not the many accounting classes you took, which could potentially benefit the company and make you a greater asset than other candidates. You cover letter is where you would have a chance to explain what classes you took, what grade you received, and what skills you gained that would make you uniquely qualified for the position.
In addition, your cover letter could serve as a forum for you to bring up any life experience you have had that would make you better at the job for which you are applying. For instance, if you are applying to be a daycare provider who has just received her degree, you may not yet have any work experience but you may have some life experience, such as taking care of many younger siblings or cousins, that could set you above other entry level candidates. It is little things such as this that may aid a potential employer in deciding between two equally qualified candidates.
As you can see, your cover letter can be very beneficial to your application. It would be a shame to waste such a wonderful opportunity. So, go on and tackle your first draft. If you need help with the format or do not know how to begin, there are several free resources on job related websites to give you a boost. Try searching for “cover letter” on your search engine and you are sure to find a wealth of knowledge. Good luck!