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I am looking at applying for a job online, direct with the employer. Their application process merely asks for name and contact details, then an attached resume. No mention of a cover letter is made, nor is there provision to upload more than one file.

Should I include a cover letter as the first page of the resume, or will this be counter-productive if the recruiter is wanting to zip through 150 resumes?

  • Why can't you ask the company? – user8365 Oct 2 '15 at 13:31
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No

Don't pre-empt them on this kind of application, they'll be doing it for a reason (likely to minimise the amount of reading they need to do when screening candidates). If you start trying to give more than they asked for, it may either annoy them, confuse them, suggest you can't follow instructions, or simply be discarded.

Some people place far more emphasis on formal qualifications than the less specific information in a cover letter. Others the reverse. This organisation appears to place emphasis on qualifications and experience, so give them what they ask for. If they wanted a covering letter they would have asked for one.

However

I would consider adding a bit of a personal statement to your resume. Just a couple of short paragraphs, mine is about 8 lines total, as a kind of "sales pitch", similar to the "You have 30 seconds in a lift, sell yourself" idea. Don't go over the top, but it's a good place to add a few important words and mention things like communication skills.

Cover letters don't really achieve much other than when sending an unsolicited or blind application, in which case it acts as the introduction for the CV and yourself. In this case, they already know you're sending a CV, you don't need a letter attached to tell them.

With one exception

If you have specific circumstances you wish to mention, which you feel may mean your CV is thrown out early if not explained, it may be worth sending a covering letter anyway including details of this. I would only suggest this for that specific situation.

  • I have a piece of text just for this very purpose to insert into the top of my CV :) – Jane S Oct 2 '15 at 9:48
  • Great answer which confirms my own thoughts. I already have a 'statement' at the top of my resume, but I think I will alter it slightly to include a little about why I'm switching careers, which I would have put in a cover letter. – ElendilTheTall Oct 2 '15 at 10:09
  • +1, I would add that I sometimes add a very short note to say what I am actually applying for. Some companies seem to have a system that just dumps it into a HR email box. If they have multiple similar positions you want to increase your chances of it ending in the right stack. – Dustybin80 Oct 2 '15 at 10:22
  • I wouldn't modify it to include why you are switching careers generally - unless there's a major career move (Applying to be a Neurosurgeon after 10 years of web development, for example, may need some explaining) – Jon Story Oct 2 '15 at 10:27
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I recently read in the Wall Street Journal that most HR managers don't even want cover letters and it is a point against a candidate. As more and more millennials are achieving management there is a strong desire to not include a cover letter on the job seeker and not to read a cover letter on the employer.

My advice is treat this just like you would a cop. Answer only what they ask and nothing more.

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