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Online Job Submission Cover Letter

Recruitment has gone digital. Many job applications will now require you to fill out an online cover letter, so do the same rules apply?

Essentially, in terms of writing style, length and lucidity, an online cover letter is very similar, which is why it’s a good idea to check out our ‘How to Write a Covering Letter’ article before you plough on with this article. Otherwise, the structure of an online cover letter is a whole different kettle of fish.

Essentially, online cover letters will vary depending on the website through which you are applying; on some, you’ll just be copying and pasting a pre-written cover letter into a text box, and on others you’ll be answering questions that will help you to structure your online cover letter.

In the latter case, make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the instructions relating to name and email fields, character limits and the various boxes you’ll have to fill out.

Draft it first…

Here’s the main thing to remember: online cover letters can expose a multitude of sins, so you’ll need to take your time when filling it out. Don’t write your cover letter directly into the boxes; instead, draft it in a Word document first.

This means you can easily check for mistakes, spend time making it as good as possible, and you won’t have to worry that you might lose it by accidently closing the internet browser.

E is for Effort…

Even if the website asks you to put answers into a template that will automatically rustle up a cover letter, make sure you draft your answers first, and answer the questions fully.

You should spend as much time on an online cover letter as you would do on a traditional cover letter.

Double check…

If you’re copying and pasting into text boxes, make sure you check the formatting. Sometimes things like styling, bullet points or spaces can get muddled in the transfer. Therefore, once you’ve pasted in the text, go back through it to check that it still reads well.

How long should my online cover letter be?

For online cover letters, the general wisdom is that they should be that little bit shorter than normal covering letters. Why? People have less patience when reading things on a screen. Some people even say that the online cover letter shouldn’t be longer than one screen in length.

Give it some personality…

When confronted with online cover letters, applicants often forget that, no matter how impersonal the application page looks, your application will eventually be read by another human being. Yes, your online cover letter needs to be professional and formal, but you shouldn’t lose your own personal voice.

Don't read that as an excuse to insert smileys and emoticons into the text, but do try to avoid clichéd expressions and formulaic business speak. Think of different ways to structure and formulate your sentences to really show off your writing style.

Find Out If You Need a Cover Letter

Learn When You Should Submit a Cover Letter With a Resume

Do you really need a cover letter when you apply for jobs? Can you get by with just a resume? How about if the company doesn't ask for a cover letter?

Should you include a cover letter even when it's not required? With today’s competitive job market, the answers to these questions are important. In most cases, a cover letter will only help your candidacy for the job. Done right, a cover letter is a way to highlight your most relevant skills and qualifications for the job.

Your cover letter is a good way to show an employer what you want them to know about you, without the hiring manager having to figure it out themselves from your resume.

(Almost) Always Send a Cover Letter

Many career experts agree that sending a cover letter is almost always the best decision. Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert, says, "Your cover letter is particularly important. It's the job searcher's opportunity to help the potential employer see that the applicant's skills and experience match what the employer seeks. A well-written cover letter distinguishes your application."

Career expert Heather Huhman notes that "Cover letters allow you – in narrative form – to tell the employer exactly why hiring you, instead of the numerous other candidates, is a good decision.”

A cover letter can make a good impression on a prospective employer and is an excellent way to show that employer why you are a strong candidate for the job.

It is also a useful way to explain away any potential concerns the employer might have about your candidacy, such as gaps in your employment or the fact that you will need to relocate for the job.

Even if a job application does not require a cover letter, you can send one anyway. Often, employers expect a cover letter even if they do not directly ask for one.

Even if they do not necessarily need a cover letter, sending one will demonstrate that you are a motivated candidate.

When Not to Send a Cover Letter

If you're applying online for a job and there is no way to upload or post a cover letter, don't worry about it. You don't need one.

When the employer specifically states what they want in a job application (resume, references, etc.), you don't have to write a cover letter.

Make Sure It's a Good One 

While a well-written cover letter may increase your chances of getting an interview, the opposite is also true. A poorly written cover letter will likely cause an employer to reject your application. Therefore, only send one if you have the time to write a clear, concise and well written letter that makes a strong sales pitch for getting an interview.

Make sure you write a targeted cover letter that specifically relates your experience to the job posting. Keep it short and sweet – 3 - 5 paragraphs – with each paragraph focusing on an aspect of your candidacy.

Finally, be sure to thoroughly edit your cover letter. Typos and grammatical errors will demonstrate a sloppy work ethic to the employer.

Review Cover Letter Samples

Before you start, check out these cover letter examples to get ideas for your own letters.

More About Cover Letters:How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be? | Should You Include a Cover Letter When It's Not Required?

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