Do You Still Need an Accountant Cover Letter?

By Robert Half April 7, 2016 at 2:00pm

In an age of LinkedIn, online job boards and applying for positions by smartphone, do finance professionals still need to go that extra step and write a cover letter? While it may not be as indispensable as it used to be, a well-written accountant cover letter still plays an important role in getting your foot in the door.

A good cover letter catches hiring managers’ attention and entices them to take a closer look at your skills as an accounting professional. But it’s also an opportunity for you to go beyond your skill set and make a personal case for how you can be of value to their organization.

What's more, the letter offers a glimpse into your personality and shows initiative. After all, crafting an optional document takes work, and going the extra mile on your application demonstrates your eagerness to do more than just the minimum.

How to craft a better accountant cover letter

While including an accountant cover letter with your resume is a good idea, you should know that times have changed. Keep these tips in mind for how to write impactful cover letters that will help you land interviews:

  • Short is sweet. The barrage of information coming at all of us today has created attention spans that are shorter than ever before. The world of resumes is no exception. Online recruitment platforms mean hiring managers are often inundated with applications. So economy of words matters. Aim to write about three concise paragraphs instead of trying to rehash your resume. All a good cover letter needs to do is complement your accounting resume.

See what your accounting resume should look like this year.

  • Keep it mobile friendly. A hiring manager could peruse applications on any device. Make sure your accounting cover letter can be read easily, both on a smartphone and in print. To ensure your letter is mobile-friendly, keep the length at around 150–200 words so the reader won’t have to scroll too much. If the job posting says you should email your documents to the hiring manager, it’s a good idea to both paste it into the main body as well as send it as a PDF attachment.

  • Make it unique. Ho-hum, generic cover letters won’t make the sale for you. So write a new letter for each position. Start by customizing it with the company name and the specific opening you’re applying for. Analyze the job posting to see which of your skills and experience to highlight, and find ways to show you can meet the employer’s specific needs. For example, if the posting emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of Statutory Accounting Principals (SAP), your letter should mention how you’ve used the system to develop high-level analyses to support decision-making processes.

  • Include a call to action. The whole point of a cover letter is to engage prospective employers and encourage them to learn more about you. Close the letter by reiterating your enthusiasm for the position and requesting that they get in touch with you.

  • Check for typos. Nothing is more embarrassing than sending in your completed application, only to find you’ve made a spelling mistake or grammatical error. Before you click “send” or “apply,” double- and triple-proof your cover letter, and consider having someone you know read through it, too.

Dealing with online systems

The vast majority of companies today use an applicant tracking system (ATS), either a job board’s or their own. This means job seekers face multiple screens of questions and many fields to fill in, which can make the process frustrating, if not confusing. Here are some tips regarding what to do with your accounting cover letter online:

  • Read the instructions. Some tracking systems have text boxes for pasting in your cover letter, while others want you to upload or email it. Follow the employer’s precise instructions, or your application may be rejected outright.

  • Use the resume field. You often can upload more than one document. If you don’t see a place for a cover letter, go ahead and add it after your resume.

  • Look for blank text fields. Many tracking systems have fields that allow you to include additional information. Here is where your accountant cover letter can go if there’s nowhere else for it.

  • Email it directly. If the employer’s ATS doesn’t allow you to upload or paste in a cover letter, do a little investigative work. Call the company and get the name and email of the person or persons reviewing applications, and email your letter directly.

Highly skilled accountants may be in great demand, but they still have to make a good impression when applying for positions. When you take the time to craft a compelling accounting cover letter for each job opening, you increase your chances that much more of making it to the next stage.

Keep looking for that perfect job in accounting and finance.

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