QUESTION: I read a few articles online that mentioned cover letters being dead. Is this true?
Definitely not dead. Include a cover letter whenever allowed. First, the cover letter allows you to expand on your resume and highlight your personal brand. It’s your opportunity to truly differentiate yourself from other applicants. In addition, a hiring manager recently told me, “I may or may not read the cover letters, but I first examine the applications that include a cover letter.”
Mark Twain once quipped, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The same is true here. For starters, many job announcements request a cover letter, and those hiring directors will expect one. As a business owner who has hired staff for many years, I can assure you that a brief, specifically targeted cover letter that accompanies a resume, sets it apart and gives it a competitive edge.
It depends on the industry and the requirements listed in the job vacancy announcement itself. Cover letters are becoming more obsolete, but there is still a good chance for one to be submitted. I’d recommend keeping one on hand that can be tailored for a specific position at all times. It is good to be prepared in all circumstances.
It all comes down to your application approach. If you are limiting yourself to a passive job search campaign, i.e. applying to open job market opportunities online, then there will be application scenarios where a cover letter is no longer requested. However, if you are also tapping into the hidden job market, you will still need a cover letter in which you elaborate your reason for reaching out.
A candidate with a strong, effective, creative covering letter may just gain an advantage over another. A real strength of a covering letter, for example, could be stating a string of projects you have managed (even though you are not a project manager by job title), this could help strengthen your position if you are looking for that next career step, something you cannot do in a resume.
No! Your cover letter may not be the first thing read, and with a stellar resume it may not be read at all. Hiring authorities may look at 1) your LinkedIn profile, then, 2) your resume, and then 3) your cover letter (and not necessarily in that order). A resume is a presentation of facts; a cover letter is a narrative, which allows you to discuss your fit for the position in greater depth.
Cover letters can be an asset in your application materials. One way is to address your letter to an actual person. While a bot will typically be sifting through your career documents first, a PERSON will be hiring you. Ditch ‘Who It May Concern’ or ‘Attention Hiring Manager.’ Do your research and address the letter to who will be reading it. Search the company website or sleuth on LinkedIn.
A 2017 Job Seeker Nation Survey revealed that 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in the hiring decision. A separate study disclosed that 56% of employers prefer applicants to submit a cover letter with their resume. Since you have no way of knowing if your cover letter will be seen by a person who does/doesn’t read them, it’s in your best interest to submit one.
Cover letters tie directly to the resume but have a different job. Resumes tell if the candidate has the right skills and the right experience. The cover letter opens the window for readers to see the human side of the candidate. Soft skills are in high demand now. It’s too costly for companies to make a hiring mistake. Use the cover letter to show why you’re the perfect fit for the position.
The simple answer is no. Cover letters are not dead, however, when applying for positions, read the job description. If it says no cover letters, don’t submit one. If it’s optional, take advantage of the opportunity to provide your differentiated and unique value statement. It may not be read but if you don’t submit one, it can’t be read. Just be sure that when you do submit one, it is stellar.
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