A friend of mine and I were talking about the difficulty many people have in finding jobs. News reports profile job seekers who send out hundreds of resumes without landing a single interview. While I find those stories painful to hear, my friend mentioned that she was one of those employers who receive hundreds of resumes and had a different view.
In the case of the job opening in her office, the response to the ad was strong. But many of the resumes submitted did not match the stated qualifications or came in without a cover letter. If the goal of an application is to make the candidate stand out, an unattached resume fails to call attention to the strengths of the applicant.
The conversation reminded me of other applications that academics submit. Whether it’s a manuscript for a journal or a nomination for an award, a cover letter explains why the candidate is a good fit. The letter shouldn’t merely restate the CV or the manuscript; it should connect the application to the mission of the award or journal. Keep it brief and jargon-free, but always include a cover letter.