When I hear the term cover letter, my mind puts them in the category of landlines, dial-up internet and mp3 players- old school.
Most employers have done away with the mandatory cover letter for prospective employees and many of my fellow résumé editors and career strategists may tell you there’s no need to submit one in t
I'm with you. If it's optional, why do it? Let’s talk about it.
What is a cover letter?
According to Merriam-Webster, a cover letter is a letter that is sent with something to explain the reason for it or to give more information about it. In the context of job hunting, a cover letter gives more information about the applicant and usually accompanies a résumé and any other supporting documents submitted to a recruiter or manager.
Okay so we know what a cover letter is- why do I need one?
As a new graduate nurse, you enter the nursing job market with thousands of other nurses with pretty much the exact same résumé content. You went to ABC nursing school, recently graduated/ passed NCLEX, have clinical experiences in Psych/ Mental Health, L&D/ Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Medical/Surgical nursing and Public/ Community Health. You may have some fun stuff to add, nursing honor society, clubs and volunteer involvement, etc that can help set you apart from other applicants. You may even have experience as a CNA/ nurse extern too- these are all great accomplishments to be proud of.
What does your résumé really say about you as a person, what you’re like to work with or what your values are? Hopefully not much or it’s probably too wordy and long hahaha
In comes the cover letter to save the day! The cover letter is where you get an entire page to write about how bomb you are! You can elaborate on topics mentioned in your résumé or talk about something completely different that makes you an awesome candidate for the position you’re applying for.
I was a new grad applying to work in the pediatric ICU AND I just so happened to be a previous PICU patient as a child. Of course, this means I can offer empathy and understand what patients are experiencing while in the PICU but where would this information go in my résumé? Nowhere, it would be weird AF to put that in my résumé but does that mean it isn’t important?
Excerpt from my actual cover letter:
“As a previous PICU patient myself battling severe asthma, I have a unique understanding of what my patients are experiencing and thus can offer empathy and and enhanced patient care experience in a way many of my peers may not be able to.”
Now the hiring nurse manager has a little more of a reason to bring me in for an interview over the next candidate. Maybe the next candidate also was a PICU patient but how would the hiring manager know if he/she didn’t submit a cover letter?
Now do I think you should write a cover enter for every job you’re applying to? Not necessarily- that can be super time consuming and I understand how it is. I DEFINITELY definitely recommend submitting cover letters for the jobs you REALLY want- your top 5 choices or so- to give yourself that extra leg up.
See below for some tips to help you with your cover letter process
The ReNegade’s Guide to Cover Letters
1. Know the template of a formal letter- use Microsoft Word for guidance or my favorite friend, Google
2. If you’re not sure of the nurse manager or nurse recruiter’s name, address the letter as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Nurse Recruiter’
3. Introduce yourself in the first paragraph including credentials, graduation date, nursing school, NCLEX status (passed, will take on xyz date)
4. Lookup the hospital and unit you’re applying to- know their mission statement and core values and mention them in your cover letter- this is where you impress them hahaha
Example: ‘I truly admire XYZ Medical Center’s commitment to diversity and interdisciplinary collaboration as evidenced by the institutions mission statement’
5. Talk about yourself next- time to hype up your extracurricular involvement, relevant clinical experience, your personal life that brought you to nursing or this particular type of nursing for which you are applying, etc. From my personal experience, this is where a lot of my interview questions came from- “Tell me more about your time in the PICU as a patient”
6. Lastly, talk about how much you want the job- eloquently, of course, no desperation!
Example: “Working at XYZ hospital has been a dream of mine and I’m sure I will continue to build on the skills I have already learned in school while working on the unit among the amazing nurse educators and preceptors that make this institution great!”
7. You can reuse cover letters for other positions! Honestly most hospitals have the same basic idea for core values and mission statement so you probably won’t need to change much there. When I was applying for multiple pediatric units, I used the same cover letter for the most part and tweaked a few things to be more tailored to the specific unit.
BE SURE TO CHANGE HOSPITAL NAME, ADDRESS AND UNIT NAME IF INCLUDED. Don’t embarrass yourself folks, if you’re going to reuse the cover letter, make sure you thoroughly look through the document to change anything irrelevant to the new position you’re applying for.
Overall, I see no downside to submitting a well written cover letter. Do I always submit a cover letter when applying for positions? Nope. Do I always submit cover letters for jobs I REALLY want? Absolutely. You never know when that personal touch can make the difference between securing the position or being looked over...
<3 The ReNegade