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  • Lori A. Jazvac

The Cover Letter is Not Extinct...but Evolving with Changing Trends

A common question by jobseekers concerns the necessity of a cover letter. Is the cover letter slowing disappearing? No, but it is changing to align with best resume practices, market trends, employer expectations, and timely recruiting needs.

While there are many myths pertaining to the need for a cover letter, a brief introduction to the prospective employer is beneficial for several reasons, especially if you are introducing yourself to the employer for the first time.

A resume without a cover letter can be likened to a book without an introduction, leaving a critical gap in understanding. Sending a resume without a cover letter enforces the employer to guess your unique value. The employer may even perceive you as careless or unfocused – due to not taking the time to introduce yourself as the candidate and elaborate on your expertise as well as the reason for applying for the role at that particular organization.

Writing a Purposeful Cover Letter

An effective cover letters quickly grabs the attention of the employer with powerful hard-hitting results that meet strategic goals. The cover letter aims to introduce you to a specific person or target employer. It also markets and positions your candidacy above other job seekers by promoting your unique promise of value. The cover letter needs to highlight achievements, education, and other attributes relevant to fulfilling the job requirements. The cover letter should also thoughtfully address any gaps or potential obstacles. Finally, a cover letter should close by initiating an effective call to action – a request for an interview.

However, while all resume portfolios require a cover letter, there are times when the e-note can suffice. For years, attention spans have been decreasing and e-notes are quickly gaining popularity.

What is the difference between a cover letter and e-note?

A traditional cover letter follows the structure and conventions of a formal business letter and should use the same letterhead as the accompanying resume. Comparatively, an e-note is the message written in the body of an email that is forwarded with your resume attached (with no cover letter included). E-notes are generally shorter; easier to skim with concise paragraphs, often featuring short lists to format the information into manageable content.

E-notes have evolved as a result of the changing technology that has altered how jobs are applied for and how candidates are screened. Likewise, the way in which information is read and absorbed has fundamentally shifted. The trend toward brevity and “scannability” has been integrated into the formal cover letter itself, essentially making the two documents almost similar, except in form.

“Use your discretion when deciding whether to use an e-note rather than a cover letter. A carefully thought-out, customized cover letter that is aligned with the requirements of the role and employer’s needs, featuring tangible results will stand out.”

Use a traditional cover letter when:

  • The job ad indicates that you should include a cover letter.

  • You have been specifically invited to send your resume by a certain individual with whom you have previously interacted with.

  • The selection for a candidate is conducted through a formal hiring committee or internal hiring.

  • There is a highly specific job advertisement featured with essential requirements which you must address in the letter.

Use an e-note format when:

  • Submitting resumes via email. Most companies will consider a clearly developed e-note to be a cover letter.

  • Applying to a company that requests only a resume and specifies that a cover letter is not needed.

  • Applying to a job through a job board or online application requiring plain text format.

  • Sending messages on LinkedIn to prospective employers.

  • Specifically requested by a recruiter who needs to fill a certain role quickly.

  • Forwarding a resume to an employer through a well-known, trusted referral.

  • Your main goal is to capture your reader’s attention and ignite their curiosity to read your resume – where a high volume of candidates will likely apply.

  • Aligning with the latest job search and application trends calling for brevity.

Guidelines for drafting an inviting e-note:

  • Make the subject line specific and attention-grabbing.

  • Write a short one or two sentence opening paragraph.

  • Include concise bullet points or short paragraphs in the body of the email featuring value-add information and quantitative results-focused achievements.

  • Close with a short concluding statement and informative signature block with your contact information, including links to social media.

Remember, the job application process may have changed as to how jobseekers introduce themselves to the employer, but a formal introduction is needed.

“When in doubt, opt for the traditional but concise cover letter. But don’t be afraid to apply a modern, attention-grabbing format that will compel the employer to take notice and read the letter from beginning to end.

You may just be surprised at the results.”

For more information about resumes and cover letter writing services, contact Lori Jazvac, Certified Resume Strategist/Career Consultant at Creative Horizons Communications at 905.730.2374 or email

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