QUESTION: What is the best way to include a cover letter with my resume when I’m applying for a job online? Should it be a separate document or the first page of my resume?
Generally, it is not advisable to combine the cover letter and resume within one document. If you are applying via a company website, and there is a process for attaching documents, keep the resume and cover letter separate. The same is true if you are emailing your resume. Also include a brief note within the email itself to thank the company for accepting and reviewing your materials.
It should be a separate document. Suppose you get someone who wants to go straight to the resume? You will want them to see your pertinent skills, experience and accomplishments as quickly as possible, and the bulk of it should be on the first page. If you have the cover letter on the first page, it’s taking them too long to get to your relevant positions.
Your cover letter should be separate from your résumé unless it says otherwise, which would be rare. Most important is to research the company, connect with people there, and address it to the right person. It’s still a who-you-know world. A simple three-paragraph format works: ID the position and how you learned about it; what qualifies you (tick off requirements); and ask for the interview.
Follow the directions provided by the employer. If none are provided, submit the cover letter and résumé as separate documents. Page one of your résumé should highlight your skills and generate interest in your background, so you don’t want that hidden behind your cover letter.
Because some ATS might attempt to parse the letter as a résumé, when allowed, upload the cover letter separately. When not allowed a separate upload,your cover letter should follow the résumé, because some ATS give higher scores to keywords on page one than for successive pages.
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