More than a few job search experts will tell you not to worry about your cover letter. In this highly-automated, online application hiring environment, they advise, why put in all that time and effort if your cover letter probably won’t get read anyway?
Well, I respect the logic behind that opinion, but I also respectfully disagree, and would like to add my own strong opinion about why cover letters still matter. And some thoughts on why you SHOULD take the time to prepare and send one with your resume, even for an online application.
But what about those online submissions?
Granted, in this time of growing online submissions where employers are overflowing with resumes, your cover letter might not get read on the first screening. It’s a shame, but also a reality.
Still, your cover letter may just get read after all – and help your case. This is especially true for certain types of jobs or industries where being able to communicate is an important part of the job. Plus, when I have a pile of strong resumes and even some maybes, it can be the cover letter that makes all the difference on second reading as to whether I actually call the candidate in for a job interview.
Another thing to think about is that your job application package can get passed on as you go along in the hiring process. Again, a well-written targeted cover letter can help make your case even later on. Even if it’s only a maybe, why wouldn’t you do all you can to potentially strengthen your job application package?
What should the cover letter include for it to matter
If your cover letter is just a short transmittal cover letter like “My resume is inclded. Please reeview & get back to me.”, then you might not want to even bother. Especially if your grammar or spelling works against you. I’ve seen too many of those as a tech resume screener, and it did matter to my client.
Although if the tech skills were so exactly in line with what we wanted, they at least made it to the phone screen. But we also didn’t forget their cover letter errors, and their writing / communication skills were something we were on alert for during the interview process.
So if you do decide to include a cover letter, of whatever type, PLEASE at least check carefully for typos and errors. As for the cover letter itself, it should be well-written, relatively short, and clearly show how well-matched you are for the job.
Some final thoughts
I don’t think you need to spend hours writing a cover letter to make it good enough to help get you the job. But you should take enough time to match each cover letter (and resume) to each job. Again, in some industries, this maybe isn’t as important as others. But for many jobs, a great cover letter still can get your resume a second look – and hopefully moved to the “yes” pile.
And the bonus you get from all the time you spend thinking about how you match the job description (the basis of the major points you would ideally include in a good cover letter), is that those are some of the very same points you not only want to emphasize in a targeted resume and cover letter, but in your job interview. Time well spent, in my humble opinion.
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