Of all the tools in a job seeker’s arsenal, the cover letter may be one of the most maligned and misunderstood. No one likes writing cover letters. It often seems like that extra effort rarely pays off in landing an interview. And many recruiters state that they dislike or even won’t read cover letters.
But a good cover letter can make all the difference in catching a hiring manager’s attention. A generic, copy-and-pasted cover letter won’t do you much good, but in a crowded job market, a well-written cover letter can be the key to standing out. Today, we’ll cover why you should take the extra time to submit a value-filled cover letter on your next job application.
Managers actually do read them
There is often conflicting data on whether recruiters and hiring managers like cover letters and it seems to boil down more to personal preference than any quantitative factor.
A Resume Lab survey found that 83% of HR professionals believed a cover letter was important, even if not required. However, LinkedIn cited a study that found 63 percent of recruiters find cover letters of low importance, while another found only 18 percent of recruiters thought they were an important complement to an application.
But LinkedIn’s Tomáš Ondrejka believes that this low importance may be because they get poor quality letters thanks to no one enjoying writing them. Regardless of how individual recruiters feel, many positions still require a cover letter. Even if they don’t, seeing that extra effort still gets noticed. And if you do take the time to write a quality letter, you might pleasantly surprise even the most anti-cover letter biased HR reps.
The extra effort allows you to stand out
When everyone dreads writing cover letters, that means many job seekers choose to send generic, copy-and-pasted letters when required and send nothing if not required. Simply by doing above the bare minimum, you can make your application that much better.
Resume.io’s Paul Drury says that a cover letter offers you the chance to tailor your application to the role and speak directly to the hiring manager. Keeping this in mind allows you to demonstrate the value you’d bring to the organization. So not only are you showing extra initiative, but you’re taking advantage of a crucial opportunity to sell yourself for the role.
“A generic cover letter is a missed opportunity. If you want the job, use the cover letter to tell them so – and why they want you above anyone else.” –Aubrie De Clerck, Mac’s List
You can better express interest in the role
The other underrated reason for sending a cover letter is in order to show your excitement about the role. Your resume may show that you have all the skills and success to excel in the role, but a resume can’t express excitement for you.
Coursera says that a cover letter is the perfect opportunity to express genuine enthusiasm for the role. Maybe it’s a dream title or industry. Or perhaps you’re applying for a non-profit role and want to explain why their mission really matters to you. The cover letter is the one spot to organically express that.
Taking the time to make a non-generic cover letter shows not only dedication to the role but also to the company’s mission.
They are a good platform to demonstrate value
If your resume is well-written and highlights your accomplishments, it paints a good picture of what you can do for that organization. But a cover letter allows you to directly correlate those skills and accomplishments to the role. Your resume may offer a blueprint, but the cover letter offers more concrete details.
Mac’s List’s Mac Prichard says to directly connect the dots between your skills and the tenets of the role you’re applying for. This can be especially helpful if how your skills would benefit the organization isn’t readily apparent. You can take it a step further by discussing direct action plans on how you’d use those skills in that role. It also shows that you understand what the organization is looking for.
“A resume provides an overview of you as a candidate, but it doesn’t provide you with enough space to go into detail about certain key parts of your career. This is where the cover letter comes in.” –Andrei Kurtuy, mediabistro
You can better explain any career gaps
We’ve discussed the idea that career gaps and job hopping aren’t the career death sentences they once were. But even though times are changing, it’s still good to get ahead of any doubts and control the narrative of your career journey. This is where a cover letter shines. In your cover letter, you can quickly address any concerns and paint them as advantages.
“A cover letter gives candidates the opportunity to address any potential red flags in their resume, such as employment gaps or career changes. When a candidate proactively explains these issues, it shows their transparency and willingness to provide context, which can positively influence my perception of their application.” –Thomas Codevilla
A well-crafted cover letter can make your resume pop even further. This document works as a support—if you aren’t qualified for the role, the cover letter probably won’t be the difference maker. But you can use the letter to better define why you’re the right fit for the role, and it allows you to tell the story of your career journey. Not every hiring manager likes to read cover letters, and most job seekers hate writing them, but taking the extra time and effort could be the key to landing a new job.