You’ve probably been told that cover letters are USELESS these days. “Recruiters don’t read them!” “Hiring managers just throw them in the trash!” Well, that’s not entirely true… “Cover letters are a very important part of your job search strategy,” said career expert J.T. O’Donnell, “especially if you’re doing a disruptive job search.” A cover letter is an opportunity to explain why you feel connected to the employer, according to O’Donnell. Look at it this way: employers are looking for people who “get” them, who understand them and why they exist. If you can explain that early on in the hiring process, you increase your chances of not only standing out, but also moving forward. “A cover letter is an opportunity for you to share a story, whether it’s personal or professional, that explains to them how you’ve come to understand that what they do is better, faster, cheaper, stronger,” said O’Donnell. “As a result, you respect and admire them, and want to work for them. That’s what needs to go into a cover letter.” However, if you have the wrong strategy for writing cover letters, it WILL end up in the trash and you WON’T end up moving forward in the hiring process. (If you want to learn how to write a cover letter that works, check out this course). So, no, cover letters aren’t dead. In fact, they’re far from it. As long as you can articulate why you’re connected to the company in a disruptive way, you have a shot at standing out among all of the other candidates and, ultimately, getting the job.
“Stop Writing Cover Letters! Nobody reads them, and writing one can only hurt you. You’re wasting your time.” This headline, on a recent Facebook post, certainly caught my attention. Coming from the legacy world of resumes being sent via the postal service, even updating that to a resume being sent via e-mail, I was immediately wondering how HR or a hiring manager would act to an envelope just containing a resume or e-mail with no message and just a resume attached. I am not buying this advice. RELATED: Need some cover letter advice? Watch these tutorials! Moreover, I do not understand how the article arrives at this conclusion either. Less than 100 words into the article, a study is quoted that says “only 18% of managers think cover letters are important.” So it is advisable to eliminate almost 20% of your potential employers without even trying? Plus, while “only” 18% think they are important, there’s no report that only 18% read them. I never put much stock into cover letters, primarily because many of them are poorly written, but I do scan them quickly, and quite regularly I see something valuable. Moreover, there are other supposed reasons for not writing a cover letter. “…a cover letter can only hurt you. Of the hiring managers surveyed, 55% said typos were the biggest turnoff. Why risk a typo when a cover letter is unlikely to help you get the gig?” That logic would also apply to resumes and LinkedIn profiles where typos are equally possible. The final arguments are that interviews are more important than cover letters. That’s a shocker! Wait a minute! I think we already knew that. Resumes are also more important than cover letters. And companies are using other tools including Skype interviews and requests to submit video interviews. All true and rapidly changing the world of hiring. Attempting to identify the single most important element of your career search makes little sense. With organizations of different sizes, different industries, and millions of individual managers’ hiring processes, a job seeker needs to be prepared for multiple strategies. There are even cases where a candidate is not even allowed to submit a cover letter. Online applications processes may allow or require an attached resume but not a cover letter. I believe there are at least four sound arguments for continuing to use a cover letter as part of your career search.