Should a cover letter be handwritten?

When you respond to a job post, your resume and other documents are typically accompanied by a cover letter. As a job candidate, you may be unsure about whether a cover letter should be handwritten, however in today’s digital world there are good reasons to write your cover letter electronically.

A cover letter is usually quite short – typically just one page in length. But it plays a big role. Your cover letter is your first point of contact with an employer. It’s a chance for you to send a compact message to identify the role you’re applying for (hiring managers may be aiming to fill a variety of roles at any point in time), and highlight your suitability for the position by briefly discussing your skills and experience.

Your cover letter also serves another, less obvious, purpose. It is the initial point of contact between you and the hiring manager – and first impressions count. The quality of your cover letter, the professionalism of your tone and presentation, and your ability to convince the hiring manager that you are right for the role, are all factors that can encourage an employer to take a closer look at your resume.

Conversely, a poorly worded, unprofessional cover letter can create a poor impression, and at worst, discourage a time-poor hiring manager from reviewing your resume.

Here are three compelling reasons why it makes sense to use a computer to write your cover letter.

1. We live in a digital world

Technology is changing the way we communicate, and it’s likely that you will be asked to forward your resume to the hiring manager via email. Even if the job post only asks for your resume and career history, don’t be tempted to skip the cover letter.

A cover letter serves more than one purpose. As well as introducing yourself to the employer, it can also provide supplementary information that is not covered in your resume, such as your availability for job interviews.

So, even if the company’s job application materials don’t mention a cover letter, it is a matter of professional courtesy to include one.

2. Employers want to see evidence of computer skills

A hiring manager will want to know that you have some computing skills. Submitting a cover letter that you have prepared on a computer and printed out, will demonstrate this.

In fact, not only is there no need to go to the trouble of writing a cover letter by hand, it can actually work against you as it can suggest you have limited computer skills.

3. A digital cover letter provides a record 

Typing your cover letter on a computer lets you save a digital record of those companies and roles that you have applied for.

It’s also more time efficient for you as a candidate to have a ‘stock’ cover letter, which you can build on and tailor for each job application. It’s a lot quicker than preparing every cover letter from scratch, as would be the case with a handwritten cover letter.

Most employers expect a digitally prepared cover letter

There may be rare occasions when a handwritten cover letter is acceptable. This can apply for instance, if the company you are applying to is highly traditional.

However, for multinational companies, roles in the field of finance or IT, or if you are applying for an executive position, hiring managers will expect to see a cover letter prepared using a computer.

The bottom line is to play it safe, and put pen and paper to one side when writing a cover letter. Drafting your letter on a computer offers multiple advantages including speed, neatness, and the ability to spell check what you have written at the click of a key.

It all adds up to a more professional document that creates a favourable impression with the hiring manager.

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