Cover Letters Are a Pain–Do I Really Need One?

Cover letters can be such a pain in the neck to write—it’s OK to just skip it isn’t it?  Does the hiring manager or HR department REALLY read them?

As a hiring manager, I have to admit that I did read each and every one of them.

They’re important for several reasons.

#1: As a hiring manager, if I got a resume without a cover letter it indicates a lack of effort on the part of the applicant.  Back when I was looking for jobs, I would lie on the couch and randomly hit “Submit Now” to anything that looked remotely interesting on  Would I have been thrilled if I actually got an interview?  YES!  Did I clearly demonstrate my interest to an employer by not including a cover letter?  NO!  Because I’ve been there (and many employers have too), I know how easy it is to just hit that send button and forward a resume without putting much thought or effort into it.  Show them that you care enough to write a cover letter.

#2:  Cover letters give you a chance to further explain some very relevant points on your resume.  Suppose that for three out of your last six positions, you worked primarily with a specific accounting program, and in one case even convinced the company you worked for that they should purchase it.  If you see that the job you’re applying for calls for someone with extensive experience with that software, indicating that upfront in your cover letter will make it more obvious to an employer than just relying on them to find it in your resume.

#3:  Cover letters let you clearly make the connection between what they are looking for, and what you are able to provide.  You can even make two columns in your cover letter—one that is labeled “Your Requirements” the other “My Relevant Experience”, and then do a point by point comparison.

Think of cover letters as another opportunity to make that connection with a potential employer.  When you’re clamoring for their attention, you need to use every trick in your arsenal to your advantage.

5 thoughts on “Cover Letters Are a Pain–Do I Really Need One?

  1. Melanie,

    You are dead right!

    Reading through the discussion pages on the web sites & blogs, it almost seems that you have to do everything to stand out.

    Your suggestion about a two column point by point comparison is new for me, so I’ll be trying it out on my next application.

    I think there is much to be gained by the all-out approach, even trying subliminal messaging in the application letters to ‘HIRE ME’… (well NLP is mainstream now isn’t it?)

    I still think being incredibly positive and energised when you write your letters is important. Somehow that infectious wording oozes out onto the page.

    Looking forward to your next suggestions.

  2. Hi,
    I agree too and think cover letters are essential in any job application.
    I work with candiates who are relocating to new countries and looking for jobs; and the cover letter gives a valuable opportunity to cover the “whys and wherefores” of the change, visa status, transferable skills and knowledge that may not show up in the CV.
    The cover letter is usually now the main body of the email with the Cv as an attachment so if the cover letter is well written, your Cv will definiately be opened!

  3. Melanie,
    Thanks for the refreshing article. I do think the cover letters are important, but don’t you agree the shorter and sweeter the letter, the better its impact.

    I used to write very long one page letter that fleshed out my experience on my resume, which in hindsight was a big mistake. The employer can see what you have done on the resume. They are not dumb. However, they have no idea as to your interest in working this position which has to come out in the cover letters as an expression of great enthusiasm in that profession somehow. If you don’t have any background in the area but you know you could do the job and you always wanted to do this kind of work, that’s something which the employer has to find genuine before they decide to interview you. Lately, the employer has the upper hand and won’t look at people without experience in that field…which actually goes to your other blog about career changing.

    It isn’t easy to switch careers to a new company esp if they’re not similarly related. However, when desperate enough, a candidate should profess displeasure wih the kind of work they do presently, but in a way that says they didn’t make a mistake, but over the course of time the job shifted way away from what the employer said it would be and that does not play to your strengths in x, y and z. If you can only get back to these abilities and knowledge, then you’d be that much happier. And as a happier person, you’re a much more productive asset to the organization who pays you. You’ll be a happy contributor and work won’t seem like work.

    That’s my thoughts. What do you think about this strategy and attempt to frame one’s current situation? Any problems that you might have detected here? Thanks.

  4. Melanie,

    I agree with the need for a cover letter and in my view it should emphasise the candidate’s softer skills which are harder to demonstrate on a CV and explain why the candidate is suitable for the particular role.

    In addition I do believe that a “standard” CV is not enough, each application requires a tailored version which supplies the evidence that the candidate has the skills and experience to match those required.

    Finally, a candidate must take the time to check and double check their application for spelling and grammar. I have never interviewed a candidate who has made spelling errors on their CV because if they can’t be bothered to market themselves effectively then they are never going to do a good enough job for someone else, ie me!


  5. As a hospitality recruiter I actually prefer when the candidate presents a cover letter at the time of the interview. When I have 500+ resumes to screen I cannot afford the time nor care to read your cover letter. It sets a tone of professionalism and shows extra effort when the candidate comes in well prepared and presents a cover letter during the interview. This could just be a personal preference.