In today's fast-paced digital world, online job applications have become the norm. As a result, job seekers are often left wondering whether a cover letter is necessary when applying for jobs online. While a cover letter may not always be required, it can significantly increase your chances of being noticed by hiring managers. Submitting a well-written cover letter can be the pivotal factor that sets you apart from the competition. In this article, we will discuss the role of cover letters in online job applications, when to send one, reasons for including one, and how to write an effective cover letter.

Necessity of Cover Letters

A cover letter serves as an introduction to your resume, providing hiring managers with a brief overview of your skills, experiences, and reasons for applying for the position. It complements your resume by allowing you to elaborate on specific aspects of your background and showcase your personality. The impact of a cover letter on hiring decisions cannot be underestimated, as it can sway a hiring manager in your favor if well-executed. Including a cover letter, even if not explicitly required, can provide numerous benefits, such as demonstrating your communication skills and your understanding of the employer's needs. However, there are situations when a cover letter is not necessary, such as when a job application explicitly states that one is not needed or when there is no option to include one in the application process.

When to Send a Cover Letter

When applying for jobs online, it is crucial to follow the application instructions provided by the employer. If a cover letter is explicitly required, be sure to include one that is tailored to the specific job and company. In cases where a cover letter is not required but the option to include one is available, it is still beneficial to submit one to strengthen your application. On the other hand, if a cover letter is neither required nor possible to include, focus on crafting a strong, customized resume instead.

Reasons for Including a Cover Letter

There are several compelling reasons for including a cover letter in your online job application:

  1. Showcase communication skills: A well-written cover letter demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively. According to Indeed, you can showcase your communication skills by describing how you've resolved various phone call and email queries using your conflict resolution and customer service abilities.

  2. Describe your fit for the position: A cover letter allows you to explain how your skills, experiences, and goals align with the requirements of the job and the values of the company. This personal touch can help you stand out from other applicants.

  3. Personalize for each job: The importance of customizing your cover letter for each job cannot be overstated. As ResumeHelp suggests, personalizing your cover letter demonstrates that you have taken the time to research the company and understand the role, which can leave a positive impression on the hiring manager.

  4. Overcome the lack of experience: If you have limited experience in the field, a cover letter can be an opportunity to explain how your transferable skills, such as problem-solving or leadership abilities, make you a strong candidate for the position.

  5. Address unusual circumstances: A cover letter allows you to address any gaps in your employment history, explain a career change, or discuss other unique situations that may not be evident from your resume alone.

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Creating a well-written cover letter is crucial for making a strong impression on hiring managers. Here are some practical tips for crafting an effective cover letter:

  1. Be concise: Keep your cover letter to one page, as hiring managers often have limited time to review each application. Focus on the most relevant aspects of your background and avoid repeating information from your resume.

  2. Customize for each job: Tailor your cover letter to the specific job and company by researching their values, mission, and culture, and highlighting how your skills and experiences align with their needs. As mentioned in ResumeHelp, including the hiring manager's name can also add a personal touch to your cover letter.

  3. Follow submission guidelines: Adhere to the formatting and submission requirements specified in the job application, such as font size, file type, and word count. As UNC Writing Center suggests, following guidelines demonstrates your attention to detail and professionalism.

  4. Proofread for spelling and grammar errors: A cover letter with spelling and grammar mistakes can leave a negative impression on hiring managers. Proofread your cover letter multiple times and consider asking a friend or colleague to review it as well.

  5. Craft a clear and concise opening and closing: Begin your cover letter with a strong opening that captures the hiring manager's attention and clearly states the position you are applying for. In your closing, reiterate your enthusiasm for the role and provide your contact information for follow-up.

Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

To ensure your cover letter leaves a positive impression, avoid these common pitfalls:

  1. Generic, non-customized cover letters: Submitting a generic cover letter that is not tailored to the specific job and company can signal a lack of effort and interest. Make sure to customize your cover letter for each application.

  2. Focusing too much on oneself: While it is important to highlight your skills and experiences, make sure to also address how you can contribute to the company and meet their needs. Focus on the value you can bring to the employer.

  3. Including too much information: As mentioned earlier, keep your cover letter concise and focused on the most relevant aspects of your background. Avoid including extraneous information that may detract from your main points.

  4. Negativity or poor explanations for job changes: Avoid using negative language or providing vague explanations for gaps in employment or career changes. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your experiences and how they have prepared you for the role.

  5. Unprofessional language or tone: Maintain a professional tone throughout your cover letter and avoid using slang, jargon, or overly informal language. As suggests, use a professional salutation, such as "Dear [Hiring Manager's Name]," to set the appropriate tone.

When Not to Send a Cover Letter

There are situations when a cover letter is not necessary or even discouraged:

  1. Job applications explicitly state that cover letters are not needed: If the job application specifically states that a cover letter is not required, it's best to adhere to the instructions and focus on submitting a strong resume.

  2. No option to include a cover letter in the application process: In some online job applications, there may not be an option to upload or include a cover letter. In these cases, focus your efforts on customizing your resume to demonstrate your fit for the position.

  3. Submitting a poorly written cover letter: A poorly written cover letter can harm your application more than help it. If you are unsure about the quality of your cover letter, consider seeking assistance from a career counselor, mentor, or trusted colleague.

  4. Not following application guidelines: If the application guidelines specify not to include a cover letter or provide other specific instructions, make sure to follow them. Ignoring application instructions can leave a negative impression on hiring managers.

  5. Focusing on the quality and customization of the resume: When a cover letter is not needed, put extra effort into ensuring your resume is well-crafted and tailored to the specific job and company. This will help demonstrate your fit for the position and increase your chances of being noticed.


In conclusion, while cover letters may not always be required when applying for jobs online, they can significantly increase your chances of being noticed by hiring managers. Including a well-written, customized cover letter can showcase your communication skills, demonstrate your fit for the position, and address any unusual circumstances in your employment history.

It's essential to carefully consider when to include a cover letter in your online job applications and to follow the application instructions provided. Remember to avoid common cover letter mistakes, such as using generic language, focusing too much on oneself, and including too much information.

Ultimately, prioritizing the creation of effective cover letters can help you stand out in a competitive job market and increase your chances of landing your desired position.