Do you really need a cover letter?

“I love writing cover letters,” said no job seeker ever.

In the entire job search process, there are few things more maligned than the cover letter. In the age of online one-click applications, it seems like a tool of a bygone era, something that seemed to fit better way back in the first few years of the 21st century (if you can remember that far back). As you come across articles questioning the need to include a cover letter, and jobs that give the option to include one, you may question the need.  So, do you need a cover letter?

The truth is yes, you do need to include a cover letter with a resume, unless you are instructed otherwise.  This might go against some of what you’ve read, but let’s go over some reasons why it’s still relevant and valuable:

Yes, Hiring Managers Do Read Them

Studies from sources like The Ladders have shown that Hiring Managers only spend six seconds scanning your resume, at least initially. Companies can get hundreds of applications for a job, so the first pass is always going to involve filtering out candidates who don’t follow directions or don’t meet basic qualifications. As the process progresses, though, a Hiring Manager will take another look at your resume, and spend more time reading your cover letter.  So even if it doesn’t make an immediate impact, it will make an impact as you progress through the hiring process.

It Adds Personality

Resumes are, by design, direct and dry, focusing on experience and skill. The cover letter is your chance to inject personality into your achievements, and illustrate the reasons why you want this job beyond your skills and experience match.  If a Hiring Manager is undecided about bringing a candidate in for an interview, a compelling cover letter may make the difference between rejection and opportunity.

It’s Still Expected

According to a Job Seeker National Study, 26% of Hiring Managers consider cover letters to be an “important” part of their decision making process. This is not an insignificant number.  Furthermore, a CareerBuilder study showed that 49% of HR Managers consider a cover letter “the second best thing to give your resume a boost”, only behind customization.  Even if a Hiring Manager isn’t going to put a lot of significance on your cover letter, they still may be able to gain some valuable insight the resume just didn’t provide.

Oh, and before you think that you can guess which companies expect a cover letter, many “modern” companies, including tech giants like Google, still want them. So unless you are specifically told not to include a cover letter, make sure you add it.

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