What Can an Employer Learn from a Cover Letter?

The Cover Letter Provides Insight Into Your Job Candidates

Woman at desk with papers smiling at woman across from her
••• PhotoAlto / Getty Images

The cover letter is the customized, business letter that accompanies the resume when a candidate applies for a position with your company. Job search experts tell applicants to target the cover letter contents to the position advertised.

Applicants are also advised to match their skills and experience clearly to the stated requirements of the position you seek to fill.

The cover letter, which is much less frequently reviewed by job search professionals than the resume, provides a picture of the applicant’s ability to present his or her credentials. The cover letter tells you a lot about the applicant.

What to Look for in a Cover Letter

From the cover letter, you can assess the candidate’s writing skills and his or her ability to make a presentation in writing. You can observe their attention to detail by their avoidance of grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and typos. You can assess the depth of their interest in the job and their belief in the “fit” of their qualifications for your advertised position.

The cover letter gives you an overall view of the applicant: attention to detail, knowledge and skills, personality, interests, and so forth, whatever the candidate is willing to reveal in the cover letter.

Significantly, the cover letter saves you time when the applicant has invested the time necessary to enumerate his or her skills and experience as they fulfill your requirements.

The successful cover letter allows you to make a quick decision that the candidate's qualifications match your needs - or not. This attention to customization and detail may also elevate the candidate's application to your shortlist.

Finally, the cover letter is an ideal opportunity for the candidate to address issues that the resume may not handle to an employer’s satisfaction. The cover letter can explain such anomalies as employment gaps, incomplete degrees, and a long-term history with one employer in the same job. The cover letter is the applicant’s opportunity to shine.

After the Cover Letter

Courteous employers who seek a reputation as an employer of choice, send an application acknowledgment letter. The next step an applicant should expect is either an applicant rejection letter or a request for an interview or phone screen.