“Do I even need to write a cover letter anymore?”
That’s the question you may ask yourself while you’re sitting at your computer, once again typing out a letter that you’re not even sure a hiring manager will ever read. More questions start popping up in your head. “Won’t they get everything they need from my resume?”
“Am I wasting my time writing this letter?”
“Will anybody even read it?”
In the age of digital applications, online social media profiles, and applicant tracking software (ATS), it may feel like the cover letter isn’t important anymore. But the truth about these documents – and how crucial they are to many employers – may show you that there’s still plenty of value in hiring a
The Case Against Cover Letters
On the surface, the case against cover letters seems simple and boils down to two arguments:
Applicants think that they’re unnecessary.
Hiring managers believe they’re a waste of time.
The case for candidates is strong.
A 2022 CNBC article – citing a survey by Fishbowl – stated that 58% of prospective employees feel that cover letters aren’t necessary anymore. Many would argue that the resume itself is enough. And those who have LinkedIn profiles – over 200 million Americans and counting – would argue that this profile should be able to serve as a cover letter.
Intrigued by this survey, HR Bartender ran one of its own, with the results reaching a similar conclusion. Quizzing both candidates and recruiters, it found that 42.7% of its respondents believe that they’re not necessary, with 19.1% claiming that they could “take them or leave them.”
That seems like bad news for the future of the cover letter.
What’s more, HR Bartender isn’t the only resource that seems to suggest that cover letters are becoming less relevant as we move deeper into the 21st century. The Muse also cites a Jobvite survey that reports that over half – 55% - of hiring managers – don’t even glance at cover letters. That would suggest that the document isn’t important to the person who’s considering hiring you.
If that’s the case, why should it be important to you?
The Case for Cover Letters
Though the case against cover letters seems compelling, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
First – the inverse of these statistics against cover letters.
If 55% of employers don’t believe cover letters are important anymore, that still means that 45% find value in them. As a candidate, you’re unlikely to know which side of the fence a hiring manager falls on unless the job listing specifically states that you should write – or omit – this document. Should you choose to submit a resume without a cover letter, you have more than a two-in-five chance of upsetting a hiring manager who expects to see this document, potentially damaging your chances of securing a role.
Second, there are plenty of stats floating around that contradict the impression that employers don’t care about cover letters.
While the Jobvite survey claims that 55% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters, a survey by consulting firm Zippia claims the opposite. Its 2023 survey found that 26% of hiring managers always read cover letters, 38% say they pay attention to resumes that include cover letters, and another 45% believe omitting a cover letter could be cause for rejecting your application.
That’s a far cry from the 45% claimed in the Jobvite survey.
And it’s contradictions like these that only add to the confusion, with some sources claiming one thing while others claim another.
Should You Write a Cover Letter for Your Resume?
The truth about the importance of cover letters probably lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, some hiring managers will pass them over, perhaps preferring to dig into the hard skills and experience you share in your resume. However, “some” doesn’t mean “all,” and, according to some sources, the majority still expect to see a cover letter to accompany your resume.
Ultimately, that means you should invest time into writing a good cover letter. As you do, try to see the letter as an opportunity – rather than a burden – that gives you a chance to do the following:
Tell Your Employment Story
Your cover letter is an opportunity to provide context to your career story. If you have gaps on your resume, the letter is a great place to explain those gaps, especially if they relate to your desiring a career change and having to take time away to work toward the qualifications needed to make that change.
In this context, the gap would seem less likely a red flag to a recruiter and more like an example of you having enough passion that you’re willing to make sacrifices to move forward in your career.
Explain Why the Specific Role Matters to You
A cover letter isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” document that you submit along with every resume you send. It’s an opportunity to further personalize your application as you can use the letter to explain what attracted you to the role for which you’re applying and, by extension, the company offering that role. This feeds into the career story mentioned above – your story charts a path to the role that you desire.
Make a Great First Impression
A cover letter that starts with a generic opening statement is practically useless because a hiring manager will have seen that type of opener before. That means that statements like, “My name is X, and I’m applying for the position of Y at Z company,” should go out the window.
Instead, start with a strong statement that delivers a hard fact while expressing why you want the role. For instance:
“I’m a computer programmer with 15 years of experience, 10 of which involve working with Java, who’s excited by the opportunity of exploring the data analytics field.”
That statement makes an impression because it expresses how much experience the candidate has and – crucially – how they wish to apply that experience going forward.
Cover Letters Are Still Important
A cover letter may not be critical to all hiring managers.
But it’s essential to some, which makes writing one critical to your chances of landing your dream role. The simple truth is that there’s no definitive proof that you don’t need a cover letter anymore – even the statistics are contradictory – meaning it’s always better to have what you may not need than to not have something a hiring manager expects.
That’s where Expert Resume Pros and our expert cover letter writers come in. We write customized and tailor-made covers letters for any profession. Trust our CRPW-qualified experts to help you craft a cover letter that grabs the attention of anybody who reads it.