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I noticed that while a lot of companies do not require cover letters in addition to the résume to send, I still tend to find it in several cases.

In intern and trainee positions, it is much rarer, but in case of full- and even some part-time jobs, it's more prevalent.

What is the reason? What is so important in it, that a proper portfolio or reference can't prove? I mean, if I have either or both of these, then why do I need to attach an additional cover letter? Huge portfolio is a proof of dedication - or not?

marked as duplicate by Lilienthal, Richard U, David K, Chris E, gnat Aug 29 '16 at 16:16

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  • Do you mean a cover letter? These are important because it introduces you and should explain why you think you would be a good fit for the role you are applying to. Your resume should only be a history of employment and skills, and portfolios only show what you have done. – HorusKol Aug 29 '16 at 1:31
  • @HorusKol I'm not sure, probably yes - in my language, at least, in literal translation, they are called "motivational letters". But anyways, I also have quite few working experience so I'm not sure if I could justify such a reason, at a first glance. – Zoltán Schmidt Aug 29 '16 at 1:33
  • @ZoltánSchmidt "What is so important in it, that a proper portfolio or reference can't prove?" - It shows that you can express yourself well in writing. A portfolio, CV or reference don't normally show that. If you're not highly motivated to write one, one thing you could do is to prepare a generic motivational letter and then do minimal search/replace for each position that happens to ask for one. – Brandin Aug 29 '16 at 9:34
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What is the reason?

In intern and trainee positions there is likely a much lower demand for you to have specific proficiency with certain skills. There can be a great deal of expected learning and new stuff for intern and trainee positions that isn't quite the case with other general positions.

What is so important in it, that a proper portfolio or reference can't prove?

You may well be mistaking the expectations here. An intern may well not be expected to be that seasoned professional that will do exceptional work from day one but rather take some time getting used to the work place that may not be the same expectation if one is looking to hire an intermediate level professional or higher. Would you expect a 7 year old to write plays like Shakespeare in his prime? Probably not and that is the point here. Interns and trainee positions are often seeking people that have enthusiasm and a desire to learn a career and thus it is more about trying something out in a sense rather than being a professional where this is the next step in your career.

I mean, if I have either or both of these, then why do I need to attach an additional motivational letter?

The question is how specific do you demonstrate meeting the requirements for the position. The cover letter lets you show how your background and skills fit the role well without adding extra stuff that may be the case with a resume that may contain a few other bits of information.

Huge portfolio is a proof of dedication - or not?

No, as one could take their artwork from grade school that could be quite a bit of work yet I doubt this is how one would get hired as a professional artist as a simple example. There is something to be said for the quality of the work here that size doesn't dictate.

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Why is it important when you have your resume/cv which gives the detail? Well they work in tandem.

The resume/CV (especially the CV) is a detail list of roles and successes, it forms your evidence.

The cover letter is basically your sales pitch: When a company/hiring manager reads through a pile of resumes you need a pitch to show why you are the candidate they want (think of Dragons Den/Shark Tank, the guys have a minute or so to pitch why this product should be funded).

You don't want to rely on hoping the hiring manager reads/understands your resume and comes to the conclusion you are exactly what they want, given they may scan it in a couple of minutes they could easily miss you.

You therefore spell out WHY you are the ideal candidate, then back it up with the evidence in your resume/cv. The hiring manager will look at this in more depth as you've already stated why they should want you.

So you should ensure the covering letter shows you have all the key points in the job listing.

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A resume/portfolio is a more general document. Resumes in particular are intended to be short (1 page). While you should tailor those documents as applicable to a position you're applying to (adjust which work experience to show, highlight certain skills or experience over others, etc), the document should be 90%+ the same from company to company.

A cover letter is a much more specific document about why you are interested in, and a good fit for the job to which you're applying. You can spend a couple paragraphs describing how your education, skills, and experience make you the right person to hire. It also gives the employer a sense for your writing ability (may or may not be relevant), your understanding of the company and the advertised position, and your perspective on your skills and what you think makes a successful candidate.

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