The primary focus of many people when applying for a job is their resume. This is where the majority of their effort goes, and they often forget about the cover letter, or quickly scrape something together at the last minute. There are also plenty of people who forego the cover letter all together.

Even if a job opening does not specify that you need to include a cover letter, it is always a good idea to do so anyway. If the recruiter doesn’t read it, it’s their loss – at least it’s there as an option should they decide to come back and look again. If they do read it, you’re providing an even stronger start to your application and potentially setting yourself apart from other candidates who skipped sending a cover letter. Plus, you never know how many people will be looking at your application, and where one person may pass over your cover letter, another may read it. So it’s a good idea to up your cover letter game and create a positive first impression.

Double check the requirements.

First, check to see if the job opening requires a cover letter, and then read the description very carefully to see if there are other instructions. Some employers ask for salary requirements or want candidates to respond to a specific question in their cover letter. Missing this critical step means you weren’t following directions and did not take the time to read the entire job description (or did not care enough to follow through).

Address it to a person.

This can require some extra effort and research on your part, but it can be worth it. Hiring managers notice small details like taking the time to personalize your cover letter instead of using a generic greeting. You may have to scope out LinkedIn, the company website, or the Internet to find who you should be addressing things to. You could also call and inquire. Don’t forget to double-check your spelling of their name to make sure it’s correct.

Make a personal connection.

Your cover letter doesn’t have to be stiff and formulaic. Do you have a special connection to the company, its products, or its services? Have you previously worked on a project where you developed skills you think could benefit the organization? Do you have a great idea for how they can address a pain point? Your cover letter is the place to address these things and further demonstrate why a hiring manager should want to learn more about you.

Toot your own horn.

Your resume and cover letter are marketing materials for you and your brand. Don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths and accomplishments and how they relate to the job you’re applying for. Skip over the vague, generic phrases that could apply to anyone and go for specifics of why you’re a good fit. This also shows that you have put thought into your cover letter and aren’t using the same general introduction for every job.

A well-crafted cover letter will only support your job search efforts and potential for landing an interview. If you skip it, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage.