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I'm an undergraduate student that is actively looking for any involvement in personal projects, internships or employment opportunities within my field of study. As a result, I tend to carry plenty of CV's with me wherever I go, just in case the opportunity arises.

Some of these on-the-fly applications are sometimes for positions that might even potentially make my future career, depending on the people I meet. Therefore, I'm assuming that a cover letter would be appropriate. However, the cover letter would have to be generic, as in not specified to anyone in particular, but rather just explains my enthusiasm for an opportunity in the field, and my qualifications/specialties.

My questions is...

Is it better or more effective to include a generic, unspecific cover letter with my CV for spontaneous applications?

  • generic anything is bad, it shows lack of effort at best and disrespect for the readers time at worst – Jarrod Roberson Jul 17 '12 at 14:56
  • @JarrodRoberson: But what if the content of the letter is good? Can't there be a good and generic letter? – Dror Atariah May 14 '14 at 12:17
  • simply put, no the point of a cover letter is to articulate why you will be valuable to my company and how. a generic one shows the opposite, if the content isn't specific to the job I have open for you by definition it is not good, waste of my time and will get put in the trash before I ever get to your actual resume – Jarrod Roberson May 14 '14 at 13:59
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The point of a cover letter is to explain to the employer how your skills and experience would be a good fit for the particular position the employer is looking to fill. If you are meeting someone in person, striking up a conversation, and handing them a resume, that conversation takes the place of a cover letter. You're better off in that case not handing out a cover letter.

Now, if you are meeting with Professor A who suggests that Professor B down the hall is doing something that would be a good fit but you don't get to meet Professor B, it would make sense to send B a resume along with a customized cover letter explaining, among other things, your conversation with Professor A. If you actually get to meet with B, however, there is no reason to hand over a generic cover letter.

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    +1, and you can follow-up with a short email containing an electronic attachment of your resume. Put the "cover letter" in the body of that email and ALWAYS craft it to address the specific job for which you are applying and express your interest pursuing the opportunity further. – Angelo Jun 4 '12 at 18:42
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For the record I work in IT, and what goes for a resume in IT may not go in other career fields.

In most cases you have around 15 - 30 seconds to impress a employer if they have just your resume.

If you feel that your resume can't do that (I recommend a summary at the top of your resume) then I'd use a custom tailored cover letter that tells the employer how your skills would make you the best person for the job.

  • If it's coming without an arm attached, generic or no cover = discard. Generally get too many coming through the mail anyway. If you don't want the job enough to write a cover letter specific to this job, I won't bother to look at you. – Sherwood Botsford Apr 16 at 4:48

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