I am applying to research and design engineering positions in the medical device industry and have noticed that all applications have an option to upload a cover letter but they are never required. I have a general purpose cover letter that I drafted back in college and am not sure if I should upload a version of it with each of my applications. The document outlines a few of my prior work accomplishments, but all of the content is covered and summarized in my resume. The only unique bit of information is a declaration of what my near future plans are in terms of career development (1-3 years time frame). In a technical skill driven industry, I am not certain that a cover letter will provide any additional information on my qualifications that are applicable to the position that I am applying for.

Question: Does adding a cover letter that has been slightly modified to fit each individual company add any value to my application?

  • I clarified my question to make it specific to a tech-engineering related position. My initial belief is that a cover-letter is not as valuable, maybe even redundant/time consuming, for an engineering position as opposed to another field such as business or human relations. – The_Bird Jul 5 '18 at 22:29
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    It seems to me that any advice in the linked post would apply to engineering as much as any other field. A cover letter might cover "additional information on your qualifications", but it's about many other things as well (you can even just highlight things already in your resume to show why you'd be a good fit, or express excitement about the role). – Bernhard Barker Jul 5 '18 at 22:36

Yes. The cover letter offers you the chance to give a bit more insight into why you think you're a good fit for the company you're applying to, and what motivated you to apply. One thing I want to have answered as an interviewer is "why us specifically?". It's not a deal breaker not to do one, and agencies rarely send cover letters through for their candidates, but it is a chance to put a bit of extra shine on your application.

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A cover letter is useful when it relates you, your history, your experience, and/or your resume to the particular position and company.

For a large company, your cover letter may never be read by a human being and may or may not be part of the automated filtering system. I've never seen one as an interviewer at my current company (though I did include one tailored to the position in my application). Every company will have a different process, but cover letters may be reviewed by actual people in HR or in the hiring chain (hiring manager, interviewers, etc).

For a small company, your cover letter will most likely be read (reviewed may be more accurate) by the hiring manager. I know my cover letter stood out when I was hired at a prior small company, because I discussed it with the CEO (who was reviewing resumes and cover letters for new college hires... small company). When I was later a hiring manager, cover letters were always reviewed and were generally a positive sign. If the candidate personalized the cover letter, they were almost always above average (anecdotal... I never quantified it).

However, if your cover letter doesn't say anything that isn't in your resume and doesn't really relate to the company and job listing, leave it off. The best case scenario is that it will just waste someone's time reading it.

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