Do You Need a Cover Letter when Applying for an Internal Job?

Applying to a job with your current organization doesn't always require a cover letter. Here is what you need to know about cover letters for internal applications.

When applying for a job, do you need to submit a cover letter? This is a common question that job seekers face when applying for positions. In many cases, submitting a cover letter is not necessary when applying for jobs internally. However, there are some circumstances where submitting a cover letter is recommended or required. Let's take a closer look at when you need to include a cover letter when applying for jobs internally.

Cover Letter Basics and When to Use them Internally

To know whether one is needed or not, it is first important to understand exactly what a cover letter is. A cover letter is a summary of your resume. It is typically a one-page document that tells the story beyond your resume. In other words, it is an opportunity for you to elaborate on your qualifications and explain why you are the best candidate for the role. While a resume is mostly about your work history and skills, a cover letter gives you a chance to showcase your personality and explain why you would be a good fit for the company.

Applying to jobs internally means that the company already knows you as part of their organization. The ability, or need, to submit a cover letter can vary tremendously between roles and organizations. Before you spend the time writing a cover letter, make sure that you understand the steps to apply to a job internally. If one is permitted or required, then you will want to submit a cover letter. In some cases, companies will not want a cover letter from internal applicants. If one is allowed or optional, you will want to write a cover letter that reminds the hiring manager and colleagues why you are the right person for the open position.

What to Include in your Cover Letter for an Internal Job Application

There are several things that you will want to make sure that you do if you submit a cover letter for an internal job application. First, you will want to focus on the information most relevant to your time at the organization.

Keep in mind that, because the company already knows you, your cover letter should focus on how you can benefit the company in this specific role. It is not the time to reiterate your entire work history or list all of your skills. Instead, use this opportunity to explain why you are excited about this new role and how you will contribute to the company's success.

Second, people will not remember everything that you have done or even know that it was necessarily you that did the work. Use the cover letter to provide a friendly reminder of what you have done internally and how those results illustrate your skills for the job that you are pursuing next. These clear examples will make it easy for people to see you in that role.

Third, take the time to also articulate your skills that are unique from the other internal competition. Think about who these people are and understand how you are different. Clearly state your strengths and motivations for pursuing this next step internally. This will make it easier for the hiring committee to see how you compare to the internal competition.

Fourth, think about the particular job that you are applying to. Make sure that you understand what the role does and what they do not do. Be clear in your cover letter about how you are a fit for that specific job and how your strengths translate into the desired position. Taking the time to provide a clear, specific message will go a long way to preparing you for the interview and showcase your strengths to your colleagues.

What Not to Include in Your Cover Letter

When writing your cover letter to pursue another position at your current organization, it is important to focus on what will help you get the job and not hurt your chances. With that in mind, there are certain things that you will want to avoid putting in your cover letter.

First, do not use this opportunity to vent about a current or past situation at work. This will only make you look unprofessional and difficult to work with. If there are issues that you need to address, save them for your interview or for a private conversation with your boss.

Second, do not use this opportunity to list all of the things that you do not like about your current or past jobs at the organization. This will again make you look unprofessional and difficult to work with. Instead, focus on the future and talk about why you are ready to take the next step in the organization.

Third, do not use this opportunity to list all of the things that you want from the company. This is not the time to negotiate salary, benefits, or vacation time. Those conversations will happen later, if you are offered the job. For now, focus on what you can do for the company in the desired role and how you can contribute to their success.

Fourth, do not miss the directions. Many organizations have clear expectations about what must be included with internal cover letters. In some cases, the organization wants a letter that provides the business case for your promotion. In others, a hiring manager may want you to say exactly why you want to make the move to the new role. Whatever the expectations are, make sure that you follow the directions for internal candidates in providing the additional context on your resume.

Make the Most of your Internal Application

Finally, and most importantly, make sure that you take the steps to have the biggest impact on your internal application.

This means following all of the internal expectations to pursue another role in the organization. In many cases, this means having a conversation with your existing supervisor. You may not need to get formal approval to pursue the new role, but you will want to give them the courtesy of a heads-up for your intent in most cases.

You will also want to be selective in your internal applications. Be smart about what you pursue internally and how you go about it. Failing to do so could jeopardize your current role or interest in staying with the organization. So, pick carefully and think through where you want to go next. This is true no matter how big the organization is.

And, make sure that you are using the appropriate systems internally to submit your internal application. Most organizations have separate systems internally where they post jobs first and give preference to existing employees. Take advantage of these benefits by using the appropriate systems and submitting your application through the appropriate channels.

Cover letters provide an opportunity to sell yourself to the organization and make a case for why you are the best candidate for the job. When applying internally, take the time to write a cover letter that will grab the attention of the hiring committee and help you stand out from your internal competition. By following the tips above, you can make the most of your internal application and increase your chances of getting the job.