Is a Cover Letter Really Necessary to Apply for Jobs?

Dec 10, 2019 | Cover Letters

An image of a cover letter torn in half with "Do I Matter?" scrawled on it in red ink, accompanying by a title graphic bearing the article's title, "Do I Need a Cover Letter for my Resume in 2019?" and Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo.

Some have said that cover letters are dead. That’s not true! While it may feel time-consuming to write, a cover letter is necessary if you want to stand out for most jobs. Read on to find out why!

By: Ashley Dolar | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

(Follow along with a Career Warrior Podcast episode on this topic:)

Raise your hand if you have spent hours crafting the perfect cover letter…

…only to be left wondering if anyone read it. Or even opened it.

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I’ve been there. A few months ago, I dove into writing a cover letter that detailed my professional experience and how it prepared me to take on a new role. By the end of the writing process, I felt confident that I would snag an interview. But it didn’t happen.

That can be discouraging – making it all the more difficult to write the next highly personalized, time-consuming cover letter. However, I still believe that a cover letter is 100% worth the effort.

Is a Cover Letter Necessary to Stand Out? Yes!

That’s because a well-written, concise cover letter can set you apart from the competition. It shows that you are willing to go the extra mile. And it’s your only chance to make a compelling case about why you fit the company’s culture.

Still… you might be hesitant to invest your time and energy into a cover letter. That’s a common fear for job seekers, as your time is precious. However, you lose nothing from including a cover letter with your application, and it can certainly help your chances.

If you’re wondering “is a cover letter necessary in today’s day and age?”, let’s take a closer look at the roadblocks that might be holding you back:

You may have heard that recruiters don’t read cover letters.

A smiling woman in a red blazer reads documents on a clipboard, representing the fact that hiring managers do read cover letters, so you do need a cover letter in 2019.

That’s partially true; only about 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in their decision-making. But that’s not really your audience here.

Yes, a recruiter is one of the gatekeepers, but their primary function is to screen resumes. Hundreds of them. If your application clears that hurdle, then you land on a hiring manager’s desk. Hiring managers usually review only the top candidates, so your cover letter is very much in play.

In fact, another survey found that 49% of hiring managers and HR managers pay more attention to an application with a cover letter, making a cover letter the second most important factor behind a tailored resume.

You see that the job posting says “cover letter optional.”

Please excuse my reference to The Matrix, but this is not a red pill or blue pill situation. There is only one choice. You should include a cover letter.

This is the safest bet because other candidates are sure to submit one if given the option. You want to be on par with top-tier contenders.

Plus, a cover letter is the most powerful way to supplement your resume. It allows you to go into more detail about the accomplishments on your resume and explain in your own voice how your professional philosophy aligns with the company’s mission. Why would you pass up that opportunity?

You might think your professional social media accounts can serve as a cover letter.

Make no mistake: A strong, industry-focused online presence can be helpful, but even your LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for a polished cover letter. Only the latter explains how your skills and personal story align with the vision of each potential employer.

As a side note, hiring managers often use search engines to find out about your online presence. As you can imagine, this is a double-edged sword. They can learn about your character, industry expertise, and unfortunately, potential liabilities. Before applying for a job, you may want to scrub your accounts and check your privacy settings.

So, when should you write a cover letter? Almost always – unless the job listing specifically says that cover letters are prohibited.

Remember, a polished, professional cover letter adds value to your application package, and more value usually means more opportunities.

Ready to take the next step with a great cover letter? Read about how to avoid common cover letter mistakes and why cover letter personalization is so important.

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