I was recently asked for cover letter advice from a candidate. My answer was "don't bother, no recruiter reads those - you'll be lucky enough to get them to scan your resume." But for some reason, every major ATS still has a cover letter submission form, and companies like Jobvite are even investing in integrating these capabilities. So I've gotta ask - does anyone actually take the time to read a cover letter bundled with an online application? If so, what do you look for? If not, why?

Help a brother (and some job seekers) out...curious to get your thoughts!

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I read them. But we are VERY manual, don't use an ATS. So basically, when I get a resume/cover letter, I read them. Then I save the documents into our database. As far as using cover letters when submitting candidates, we often have them with the resume to correlate specifically to that client's position. In my days as a hiring manager, I also read them. 

First, I agree that "most" recruiters don't read CLs. However, a job seeker generally won't know in advance who will be receiving and/or reviewing their application materials and therefore has no way of knowing that person's (or company's) preference.

Unless the application steps or ATS process explicitly state to NOT include a CL, I'd recommend sending one along. Worst case, it will be ignored and not read. Best case, you write well and your CL stands out from all of the others that suck. 

Second, as inaccurate or bland as most job postings are, practically all state some requirement for effective communication skills. As a person reviewing submitted applications I use CLs as a writing sample to see how well someone can demonstrate that they can articulate their understanding of the role and how they are qualified for it in a concise and coherent message. And, preferably not in a generic template format full of cliches they found when googling CLs. 

Third, not that I'm in favor of extra steps (AKA hoops for applicants to jump) but requesting a CL in the application steps is a simple way to gauge level of interest, ability to follow instructions and can be a useful preliminary filter for whether someone has the professionalism that would fit your org culture or the needs of that position. 

I would place higher priority on CL quality for any position that involves written communication in the form of customer interface, proposal writing, vendor presentations, memos, internal/external content production, etc., OR any leadership position. 

The above pertains to an internal hiring process - TPRs obviously would have a different view of CLs 

What's a "cover letter"?


I did not read cover letters for years as most companies I supported didn't require them (nor did the managers read them).  The main requirements for hiring at previous companies were primarily skills focused, culture + "team fit" were not highly valued (bottom line was, can they do the job).

In my current role, we (recruiting + the company) highly value culture and cover letters allow us to learn more about candidates and there motivations.  We really want to know why people would like to work for our company and what is the draw for them to work in gaming.  The cover letter allows them to speak about there passion for the work they do and how they would apply this passion to the role for which they are applying (and the company as a whole).

Furthermore, the addition of a well written cover letter shows additional effort and desire to move forward with interviewing for the desired position.  

Wrote an article about this subject. My answer: No


If by cover letter you mean a generic writeup that has nothing to do with a particular opportunity, then no probably no one will read it.

If you mean a "targeted thought argument" of why a prospective candidate should be considered for a particular role, then, yes those get read.  They get read by me when I'm figuring out if I should call someone and I know my missives are read by my clients. I do not attach them with a resume, I craft them in the body of the email - short, succinct and full of why the candidate should be interviewed. I do the same when I am submitting through a vendor managed system - though I work with those clients less and less.

I think it irresponsible for recruiters to tell folks who are looking for work not to write a cover letter. What we should say is don't write a Bad cover letter. Don't drone on and on about stuff that no one cares about. Write a short persuasive thought argument of why you fit the role and the company.. If it gets sucked up into an ATS it will be there for the recruiter who does a search and finds you. If is it well written and persuasive it will make a difference.  Of course if a company says "Don't write a cover letter" don't break a rule - but the same argument could live in a professional summary section.

I ALWAYS read the cover letters!  I am looking for content, grammar, spelling, formatting, etc.  All those things that come up later and we freak out about!  Much of that can lead to us excluding, or INCLUDING the candidate in the next step!  If the cover letter is addressed to the wrong person, wrong company, for a completely wrong position, but attention to detail shows up in their resume?  It's an inconsistency.  How many more inconsistencies will I find?  After three, I stop looking.

As recruiters, we should look for consistencies.  Consistencies with the candidates being who they say they are.  Backing up their own adjectives with action, verifiable actions.  A cover letter is a sure way to either make or break their chances!

Some great advice here, so let me ask: what (if anything) makes a cover letter actually stand out independent of a resume? Any preferred templates or must have content? 

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