The Origins of a Cover Letter
A cover letter is also referred to as a transmittal letter. Traditionally, its main purpose is to identify an enclosure or attachment, with the latter being the main focus of a business transaction. It briefly identifies the person for whom the enclosure is intended and the reason why the document is being transmitted.
The secondary purpose is to provide the sender with written proof that the enclosure was transmitted and was received by the person concerned. As a matter of procedure, the sender prepares an extra copy of the cover letter, which the receiver acknowledges by affixing his signature as well as indicating the date it was received.
However, the cover letter transformed and transcended into another form of business correspondence. Business systems developed into something more complex; some documents were regarded as generic or typical. These documents are often submitted as a required attachment and have to be randomly selected based on their merits. In this context, the attachments are still considered an essential part of the criteria, yet they tend to be so numerous that one has to stand out in order to be a considered as worthy of being given time and attention.
Hence, the cover letter had to be more creative in order to make an impact and call attention to the attachment as the one true document that could provide the ultimate answer. In a short span of time, this type of cover letter had become widely used for resumes because it effectively served the recruiter's screening processes.
Now, does this mean that the traditional letter of application is no longer appropriate? Not really; it’s just that the popularity of new recruitment methods rendered the job application letter redundant.
Actually, a letter of application is more comprehensive and is regarded as the primary document. The resume, as an attachment, merely provides the details in case the reader is interested to know more. In fact an application letter’s main purpose is to serve as a marketing tool for the applicant, where the wares are his skills, his knowledge and his ability to perform the job in the most exemplary manner.
So when does an applicant make use of a cover letter and when is it more suitable to write an application letter?
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