If you’re an IT professional entering the job market , we’ve got something to tell you that will make you smile – maybe even shout for joy.  Here goes….

You may never have to write another cover letter as long as you stay in the technology profession!

See, we knew you’d smile :)

If you’re like the majority of job seekers, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time during your IT job search writing the perfect cover letter. And you’ve spent all that precious time writing this document because…well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Right?  We won’t say “wrong” but we will say “not necessarily.” 

Back in the day (before the iPod, iPad or iAnything), it was a golden rule that the cover letter always accompanied the resume. No ands, ifs or buts about it. The cover letter, so we’ve been told, must be engaging, position-specific and well-written. It must describe why you are interested in the position and what qualifications or experience makes you a good fit. It should outline your relevant experience and reflect your willingness to learn. It should also be used as an opportunity to highlight a special skill or quality you possess that would be an asset to any organization.

But wait. If the cover letter serves such an important purpose, why are we saying “fugheddaboudit?” There are three reasons, but we want to preface that the cover letter is NOT obsolete.  Job seekers (especially outside the technology industry) should be prepared to submit a cover letter when applying directly to HR or the hiring manager because a personalized, tailored letter may help to get their attention. However, when working directly with an IT recruiter, do what the gang from The Jersey Shore would do and fugheddaboudit. Here’s why:

  1. For the recruiter, the resume is the cover letter. The resume is what recruiters use to screen candidates. Because recruiters must fill numerous positions for multiple clients in very short timeframes, they don’t have time to sift through information that may or may not be pertinent to the job they’re trying to fill. This is why a customized resume highlighting skills relevant to a particular position/role is vital. If your resume impresses the recruiter, she’ll want to talk to you and that’s when you can provide additional information that isn’t included on the resume.
  2. The recruiter will search social media sites to find out more about you. If your resume gets the recruiter’s attention, it’s almost a guarantee that she will turn to social media to do a little investigative work.  For example, the recruiter may go to your LinkedIn page to review and compare work history, read recommendations, and see if there is a network connection to her or anyone she may know.  Social media is an important recruiting tool, so don’t underestimate its influence during the hiring process. We’ve blogged about social media extensively – if you want to know more about how to effectively use social media during your job search a good place to start is here.
  3. Believe it or not, 99 percent of the time our clients never request a cover letter. Simply put, they don’t have time. That’s why your resume must clearly communicate the skills, experiences and results that pertain to the position you’re applying to.

With all that said, having a “back up” cover letter is always a good idea. For instance, if the client isn’t totally sold on your skills listed on the resume, the recruiter can use information contained within the cover letter to persuade the client to consider you. The hiring manager may also be interested in viewing the cover letter to show him that you can write a sentence and know how to communicate effectively.

Bottom line, when you’re working with a recruiter don’t spend time writing an eloquent cover letter. Instead, use that time to create a powerful resume and online presence.

Views: 646

Comment by Karla Porter on February 4, 2011 at 11:31am
Call me crazy but I DO read cover letters if the resume interests me. And if I ask for a cover letter in a job post and get a resume without one, I assume the individual doesn't follow directions well. I am not a keyword skimming machine... I look for fit as well as skills and solid placements. Valuable things I find in cover letters are explanations of gaps in employment, relocation logic, recareering, etc.
Comment by Jon Prete on February 4, 2011 at 11:32am
I totally agree that an introductory email with the attached resume is REQUIRED. I should have stated so in the blog, but assuming that was a given (I don't know why I'd make this assumption) I failed to mention it. Sending a resume as an attachment with no introduction or explanation is a big mistake, and most recruiters will probably not take the time to open the resume.  Thanks for keeping me honest!
Comment by Jerry Albright on February 4, 2011 at 11:33am

Are we saying a candidate should simply attach his resume - and nothing more?  Am I hearing this right? 


Well - I'm not in agreement here.  I read every cover letter sent to me.  I'm surprised any of us would not.  Why wouldn't we?   


Our job requires us to learn as much as we can about the people we work with.  Their ability to introduce themselves, put together a few sentences on why they are interested and what they bring to the table is great.  To say you'd avoid reading the cover letter and jump right to their social media profile surprises me.  More often than not - I find very little about the people I'm recruiting.



Comment by Kathleen Davis on February 4, 2011 at 11:34am
The only time I read a cover letter is if I am recruiting for a person dealing with written documentation such as contracts. I want to see if there are any errors on the cover letter. 99% of the time I do not read them. If they do send one, and I have screened them, and getting ready to submit them to a client, then i will go back and read the cover letter if there is one. I am a stickler on grammar and punctuation. However I am with the majority of you. I don't have time to read them. I would rather see a short email with their resume.
Comment by Richard Cialone on February 4, 2011 at 11:40am

My pet peeve is when candidates only use boilerplate cover letters.  Completely useless.  However, I do believe a cover letter can be useful when done correctly.  Depending on the type of position, it can be impossible to tell the full story without straying too far from a traditional resume format (which is a kiss of death).


 If a cover letter is used, it should provide a compelling narrative on exactly where in your resume the recruiter should look to determine fit.  Or, it should concisely match one's qualifications to the position requirements.  Or, as Pam Claughton mentioned, it's a great way to (VERY BRIEFLY) show communication skills (not to mention it adds a personal touch..I find a blank email body to be quite sterile and lacking in any kind of personality).

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 4, 2011 at 11:41am

Sorry folks - but we don't have TIME to read a cover letter?  Too busy with all the FB invitations? The constant stream of junk on Linkedin?


If there is one thing I have - it is TIME to learn as much as I can about each candidate I'm looking at.

Comment by Victoria Kenward on February 4, 2011 at 11:43am
I could not disagree more.  Perhaps no cover letter works for recruiters or in IT, where the resume is going to be parsed into a database anyway.  But as a standard, I (as a hiring manger in a marketing company) don't read resumes that don't come with a cover letter (or at least an email introduction).  Frankly, if you don't want the position enough to sell me on why you are the perfect fit, then why should I take the time out my busy day to decipher your resume?  The cover letter is a great opportunity to show me what separates you from the stack of resumes that are in my inbox.  I admit, I am not a recruiter and I am coming from marketing, so my perspective may be different than others on this forum. I expect someone who wants to work for my firm to market themselves!
Comment by Boris Stefanovic on February 4, 2011 at 11:43am

The cover letter is the last thing I read, if at all, and as an agency Tech. recruiter I've often wondered if corporate recruiters feel the same way. Like you said, "the resume is the cover letter". But for me the cover letter is far from dead, it's just lost its "covering" status.

When presenting a candidate to a client I compose an introductory message in the email to huckster/highlight the candidate's skills and suitability as it relates to the job, information usually gleaned from an interview or detailed conversations. In this way I marry my personal assessment of the candidate (i.e. what's NOT in the resume) with my personal knowledge of the client's needs (i.e. what's NOT in the job description). This also demonstrates the value added by my service, that I'm doing more than just pushing resumes out to them, and reiterates my appraisal of what they really want. 

Details in the cover letter can be recycled into that presentation, even directly cut/pasted as quotations. So only AFTER a candidate has been deemed good enough to present does the cover get any scrutiny.


To turn it around a bit, if YOU were applying for a position, would you use a cover letter? What if you were not applying for the same job you're doing now (i.e. a non-recruiting job that employs the same skills you've developed as a recruiter)?

Comment by Amber on February 4, 2011 at 11:45am

I usually read most cover letters. I read them to see the written communication skills, and also sometimes they contain information that I might have not picked up on in my initial review of their resume. If the cover letter contains information that is not on the resume, and it is someone I am considering submitting to a client, I will determine why it's not in the resume, can/should it be in the resume, and am I going to have the candidate make revisions accordingly.

Big negatives when I look at a cover letter: poorly written, addressed to another company/person, or clearly totally generic and/or irrelevant to my job description.

Majority of my clients do not ask for cover letters, and do not often want to read them. They prefer a summary in the body of my email, or just a resume.

Comment by Mark Bregman on February 4, 2011 at 11:53am
Call me old-fashioned, but I am a strong advocate of customized cover letters that include a value proposition (what the candidate offers the employer) and specific info on how the candidate meets the objective for the job (if known).  When I see these as a recruiter, the cover letter tells me the candidate is proactive, bright, and willing to differentiate him/herself.  That says something about what they'd be like in the job.  Sample cover letter is on my web site.


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