The Importance of an Effective Cover Letter

When applying for a job as a veterinarian or similar position in the industry, employers will often ask for two things -- a resume and a cover letter. We are all aware of why you should include a resume, but too many people neglect to send the employer a cover letter.

The truth is, your cover letter is just as important as the resume, if not more important. Knowing what to include and how to write an effective cover letter will give you a steep advantage over any competitors applying for the same job. 

What is a Cover Letter?

Cover letters are exactly what they sound like -- a letter that is used as a cover to your resume. They are often seen as the boring counterpart to a resume, but they allow you to display certain traits and skills that can’t be shown on a resume, like personality and written communication skills.

I like to think of cover letters as a moment to introduce yourself to the employer and sort of sell yourself to them (or at least sell your resume to them). It’s a chance for the employer to not only see your experience, but hear your side of things.

When Should I Send a Cover Letter?

A giant myth when it comes to cover letters is that they should only be reserved for higher-level positions. In my professional opinion, cover letters should be reserved for any position that you are applying for -- whether it be a veterinarian position or a receptionist at a vet clinic.

Employers are likely to browse over your resume at some point during the hiring process, but we all know that sometimes isn’t enough to win them over. An effective cover letter will not only get the employer to look at your resume, it will also change the way they look at your resume.

With a cover letter, your goal is to get them excited to read your resume. Most importantly, you want to get them excited to interview you!

What Should I Include in a Cover Letter?

This is an important question because the last thing you want is to make your cover letter boring or forget to include something important. Keep in mind, you want to remain professional, but you also want to showcase that personality of yours. Employers want more than someone who knows what they’re doing, they also want to make sure their employees are a joy to work with.

At the top of the cover letter, always include basic personal information as a means of contact. This should include your full name, phone number, email address and physical address. This section is usually indented to the right side of the page.

As we begin the letter, you will want to address it to the employer. If you have a direct contact, use their actual name and include the correct salutation. For example, if it’s being sent to John Doe at CompanyX, address the letter as “Dear Mr. John Doe” or “Dear Mr. Doe.”

The first paragraph of the letter should always state who you are, what position you are applying for, what qualifications you have and a one-sentence explanation of why you were inclined to apply for this job. 

Make sure to tailor the cover letter specifically for the job you are applying to, and avoid copying/pasting from one application to the next.

After this introductory paragraph, you can start to get into the beef of the cover letter. In this part, you will want to include as much of the following as possible -- without boring them:

  • Elaborate on your certifications and degrees that are applicable to the position
  • Go into more depth on past experience and how it will apply to the position
  • Mention any special skills that weren’t listed on your resume
  • Any volunteering or charity work you’ve don

Make sure to talk yourself up, but be humble about it. You want to make them feel like they need to learn more about you.

When closing your cover letter, it’s important to thank them for their consideration and always request an opportunity to speak with them in person (interview). Let the employer know that you would be happy to elaborate on any part of your resume or cover letter. 

It’s also good practice to include when you might be available to interview and even possibly start work. 

In regards to signing off on the cover letter, I like to end it with “Respectfully, [Name]” and then leave some space for a hand signature.

Do’s & Don’ts

Before you start putting together your wonderful cover letter, I wanted to briefly go over some tips as far as what to aim for and what to avoid. 

Let’s start with the stuff you want to aim for:

  1. Address it personally and tailor it to the specific job you’re applying to
  2. Keep it straight to the point, but make sure to include everything needed
  3. Make the employer feel you are excited and eager about the position
  4. Include any relevant experience -- employers love experience
  5. Explain any gaps in your work history
  6. Be appreciative of the opportunity by thanking the hiring manager
  7. Have someone proofread your cover letter before sending
  8. Be yourself!

And now some things you want to avoid:

  1. Don’t fill your cover letter with fluff words and run-on sentences
  2. Avoid re-hashing your resume into essay format
  3. Never copy or paste a cover letter used by someone else
  4. Don’t lie or over-exaggerate anything -- be honest!

By following these best practices when sending in a cover letter, you will hit home every single time you inquire about a job.