While everyone expects to have to submit a resume at some point during the job application and interviewing process, the same can’t always be said when it comes to a cover letter. Use the following guidelines to determine if the job you’re applying for as a job seeker with a disability would benefit from having a cover letter and, if so, how to write an effective one.
It’s extremely important to know that not every job will require a cover letter. It’s also valuable to understand what’s appropriate to include in a cover letter and what may best be left off entirely, especially for a job seeker with a disability. With that said, here are 7 tips that may help you.
- Find Out Whether the Company Requires a Cover Letter
Unless specifically asked for in the job description, there’s no requirement that every resume be accompanied by a cover letter. If writing a cover letter seems too daunting or gets in the way of just sending off a resume, it’s best to skip it.
- Understand the Situations Where a Cover Letter is Needed
A cover letter may be a good idea under the following circumstances:
- When information vital to the job duties can’t easily be conveyed on a resume
- When you want someone to forward your resume to the correct person
- If you’re applying to creative positions or executive level positions
- If you’re applying for positions that may include several interviews with many different persons reviewing the resume. In this example, a cover letter can help the interviewers get to know you and give them an indication of how you present yourself.
- Address Your Cover Letter to a Specific Person
Do some research online or call the company and ask for the name of the human resource recruiter or hiring manager for the position. A personalized letter shows the employer you’re resourceful and do your homework!
- Name Drop in Your Cover Letter
Whether it’s a personal or general company email, be sure to name drop if you have a company contact or were referred by someone. It can be as simple as a starting line of “John Doe suggested I contact you.” Yet be sure to identify him if you think the recipient won’t know who John Doe is. For example, “John Doe, who works in Accounting, suggested that I contact you.”
- Determine What Approach to Take with Your Cover Letter
The way to approach your cover letter depends on whether you have a contact with the employer or if it’s going to a general human resources’ company email.
When sending to a personal email, let the focus be on the specific job description and why you’re a good fit. Highlight a few terms and use key words from the description that directly match your skills and abilities and express them in a paragraph or two.
When sending to a general HR email (e.g., email@example.com), focus as much on the company itself as the job description.
- Know What Not to Include in Your Cover Letter
Job seekers with disabilities may be tempted to disclose their disability in a cover letter, but we strongly advise against it. At this point in the job search process, it’s simply not necessary. Be sure to only apply to positions where you meet the minimum requirements listed in the job posting. If you’re unable to meet these requirements, you may want to look for positions better suited to your skills and abilities instead. If you have areas in your work history related to a disability or illness, such as gaps in employment or a career change, you can address these on your resume. Just make sure not to disclose your disability on the resume. An employment network agency or professional job counselor specializing in helping people with disabilities can assist you with writing your resume and cover letter to fit your unique needs and guide you when to mention certain items during the job search.
- Acknowledge Unique Situations in Your Cover Letter
Use your cover letter to point out special circumstances like being a recent graduate, recently laid off, or in the midst of transitioning careers. Keep it brief and simple. Here are a few examples:
- Example 1 – Recent Graduate
“As a graduate of XYZ School in Hotel Management, I am prepared to put my education into practice.”
- Example 2 – Recent Lay Off
“Due to reorganization at my previous company where I had been in management for six years, I am exploring management positions at your call center operations.”
- Example 3 – Transitioning Careers
“I have ten years successful sales experience as a real estate agent, and I would bring the same enthusiasm for sales and customer service to your equipment sales position.”
A specialty cover letter can also be used for veterans or those who need to address a gap in employment, like caring for a family member or living outside the country.
If you do decide to talk about your disability you should explain how it affects you stating what you can and can’t do in relation to the job. Make sure you’re positive and talk about how you’ve overcome any hurdles. Then explain any adjustments you would need the company to make and end by saying you’re available to discuss if they have any questions.
You aren’t legally required to disclose a disability. However, you shouldn’t lie and say you don’t have a disability if you do, as this could mean you lose any potential job offer. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against candidates with disabilities so you’ll have just as much of a chance as anyone else of securing the position.