Does any actually read cover letters anymore?

One of the standard documents you have likely heard of adding along with your resume is a cover letter. Does the cover letter still hold weight with recruiters and managers? The truth is less than straight forward unfortunately.

It really depends on the individual doing the application reviews. Some applications still actually require them, so in that case you would need one to move forward in the process. Even the jobs that require cover letters do not guarantee that it will ever be read. Needless to say, the cover letter is not quite extinct though it is likely going to be soon.

Why Aren’t They Read?

Liz Ryan’s article on Forbes definitively states the cover letter is dead. By the time a company has a job opening, they have likely been overwhelmed for some time. It takes companies weeks or even months to get new job openings approved, particularly if it is a growth position. This means the recruiter and hiring manager likely don’t have a lot of extra time. Your resume or a recommendation is what has them considering you, not your cover letter.

A cover letter is likely not going to provide information to sway them one way or the other. In the interest of saving themselves some time, they will probably skip the cover letter. Or at best skim it. In a perfect world, most managers and recruiters would love to read everyone’s cover letter, but it just isn’t feasible in a lot of situations.

Another reason is the way some companies are changing the application process. In particular more of the cutting edge companies are asking more in depth screening questions in the application. Check out an application for the jobs at MeetEdgar. These types of questions will give them what they would want to know in your cover letter, making one irrelevant.

Why You May Still Want to Include One

The one time a recruiter or manager may read your cover letter is if they are on the fence about putting you through to the next step. A well written cover letter just may give them a bit more insight into who you are and why you want to work for their company. In that case, it certainly won’t hurt to include a good cover letter along with your application and resume.

If you are changing industries or have a gap in your experience you may also benefit from a cover letter. This way you can explain that information to the reader. You know they will be curious, so you can go ahead and provide the answers. They may not read it, but in the event they do, you can give them what they want to know. It will also answer the question of why are they applying to this job?

What Makes a Good Cover Letter?

A cover letter is in addition to your resume, so you want to include different information in this communication. Avoid including a summary of your work experience, as that is not adding any value that they wouldn’t already have in viewing your resume. Here are some tips to help your cover letter stand out.

·         Explain why you are so interested in their company. Show them that you aren’t just applying to anything and everything. The Muse has a great article with some examples of attention grabbing cover letters. Be engaging and make them want to hire you!

·         Keep the cover letter short and to the point. We’ve already stated that most cover letters won’t even be read, so in the change yours does don’t lose their attention by making it too wordy. As Aine Cane writes in I let an expert tear my horrible cover letter to shreds there are several ways to make your cover letter better

·         Tell them what you can bring to the company. Focus on the skills that you bring to the table and why you are the best fit for the job. If you are great at process improvement, give them a quick example of what you have done with your company and that you can do the same for them.

·         Don’t make it cookie cutter. If you do a cut and paste for each job you apply for, it likely won’t produce the result you are going for. Some of it can be reused, but make sure you tailor it to the job and company you are applying for.

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