Idea in short

About 26% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in their decision to hire. Another study on employer preference suggests that 56% want applicants to attach a cover letter to the resume. A CareerBuilder study found that 49% of hr managers consider a covering letter the second best thing to give your resume a boost (number one being customizing your resume.)

Lately, during our workshops, several candidates have asked us whether they should submit a cover letter when applying to an open position. With the popularity of professional network profiles and automated resume scanning software a.k.a Applicant Tracking System, it makes logical sense to not submit a cover letter. Nevertheless, these are important as the only piece forward-looking marketing collateral in your entire application package!

Scenario

Candidates that attend our career workshops wonder whether investing time in understanding their profiles & personality types is worth the effort. Perhaps, their carefully crafted letter won’t get read at all. Recruiters might pass it on to employers if asked for one. And, if employers are swamped with resumes, they may consider this document unnecessary. Yet, despite these concerns, there are strong arguments why a professionally written cover letter makes is indispensable.

Compelling reasons

Writing a cover letter helps distill what you consider important that the prospective employer should know about you. It enforces structural discipline to your thinking and forces you to focus on the key points that matter – who you are and what you have to offer. Particularly, when making unsolicited applications to employers, your cover letter could get your application to the next level. If written well, cover letters provide compelling arguments and serve as powerful tools to an interview. But if done poorly, you could torpedo your entire application!

Pro’s

A well-written cover letter:

  • complements your CV / Resume & professional network presence
  • highlights the most skills relevant to the position
  • presents evidence that you have researched the employer

Beyond responding to a job and using language from the posting, you can explain any gaps or special situations revealed by your CV / Resume. This can refer to job-hopping, or time off for things like a sabbatical or family care. Addressing these in your note lets you explain the circumstances.

E-Mail Cover Letter

An alternative to a full cover letter is an e-mail cover note instead. Many employers will take time to read a concisely worded E-Mail, especially if it has a gripping subject line. So, consider including three shortened, customised paragraphs of your cover letter in the body of that e-mail. Then mention that your CV is attached. You can spice up the cover letter by opening with an attention-grabbing question or very short story. Done right, it can stand out and put you top of mind.

Summary

Cover letters are important, and you shouldn’t skimp on them during the job search process. They can help you focus employer attention on the most important aspects of your resume and ensure you stand out from the candidate pile. In reality, a resume is of limited value to an employer without a cover letter for context. Therefore, cover letters are important because they tell employers the type of position you're seeking — and exactly how you're qualified for it.