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 Todd Nilson on February 4, 2011 at 12:00pm

I'm interested in knowing the opinions of the group about whether a somewhat less formal  email has replaced the need for the cover letter. Is the cover letter itself antiquated?

I do not believe that it fits the channel (email), except, arguably in cases where the employer is asking for a cover letter or higher level executive positions where I want to see what a formal communication from this candidate looks like. I work in executive IT level placements and more often than not I receive a cover letter as a Word document attachment. Do I read them? You bet, though I'm honestly never thrilled to have an extra document to file. Are they usually bloody awful? Oh yeah. Many of them are so mired in boilerplate that they are next to useless.

Think about the value, then, of a cover letter that truly addresses the position in question.

Comment by Bill Humbert on February 4, 2011 at 12:06pm

If the candidate is unemployed, I suggest they network instead of post & pray. 


Rarely do I read cover letters.  There was a time they had a place.  Too often today, they are written by career coaches.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 4, 2011 at 12:10pm
I think recruiters who don't read cover letters are missing a trick. I always used to read cover letters when looking to employ someone., Why? Because whilst many people simply copy a template and fill in the blanks, others go to great lengths to personalise their message and as a result you get a snapshot of their personality coming through. If it's well written and presented without any grammatical errors or 'typos' then chances are that person has a good eye for detail and can express themselves well. I'd trust them to draft correspondence or send a group email out for instance. Obviously depends what the vacancy is but these days communication skills are possibly more important than ever thus the cover letter is an important introduction that a CV can't necessarily convey as well. Sadly, technology is doing its best to crush creativity. Many recruiters think that technology alone can bring them that ideal person. It can't Human beings need to be motivated and enticed. Why does good product advertising work? Because it has an allure, something that people can relate to or want to be a part of. So many job ads fail to do that, hence poor response in terms of quality. I've heard talk in some circles that the CV is dated and on its way out. Hell, why don't we just get everyone to make videos and put them up on youtube and hold an online talent contest/freak show every time we want to recruit someone?
Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on February 4, 2011 at 12:11pm

This is a very interesting and relevant discussion. Great points for and against. I'm coming down on the side that thinks the cover letter is a relic of the past. My two cents:


The cover letter might serve as a starting point for the hiring authority to discover more about who you are, but the proliferation of public data available about a candidate far outweighs the impact of a cover letter addressed to one person.


Addressing the letter to a position and not a named individual ('Dear HR Manager') is a death knell, because it tells the reader that you have not attempted to do any research on who is in charge, assuming that you were confident your letter would be read by the person holding that title.


Your online presence and (well-written and thoughtful) recommendations from peers, reports and managers serve as more pointed supporting arguments to why you qualify for the position.


Finally, if you really love the idea of creating custom covers for important positions you apply for, think about rewriting the statement of objective on your resume in a more compelling and persuasive tone that brings you the results you so desire...the first interview call.

Comment by Jon Prete on February 4, 2011 at 12:12pm

Coming from the IT staffing industry, the blog was written for IT job seekers. I did preface in the blog that the cover letter was still necessary for job seekers submitting their resume directly to HR/hiring manager.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on February 4, 2011 at 12:17pm
"think about rewriting the statement of objective on your resume in a more compelling and persuasive tone that brings you the results you so desire" This statement could equally apply to 90% of recruiter job ads. Compelling and compulsive or cut & pasted job descriptions with no sell on the company or the role whatsoever? It would seem that some recruiters are cutting more and more corners. No creativity in writing a job ad, no cover letter reading, no acknowledgment or response to unsuccessful candidates. What happened to customer service? The client may be your customer but the candidate is your lifeblood. I think many have lost sight of that. I expect incoming :)
Comment by Emily Eversman on February 4, 2011 at 12:35pm

My opinion is cover letters are no longer needed and objective statements are heading that way too. I only look to the cover letter to see which postion they are applying for. I would rather see a longer more detailed resume then read through a letter telling me why they think they are great for this position.

Comment by Thomas Gray on February 4, 2011 at 1:33pm
I AM the cover letter...
Comment by Lesley Hardy on February 4, 2011 at 2:03pm

Im sorry I also disagree and very strongly.  I get so many overseas candidates who look good on paper.  I always read the resume first, and then I look for the cover letter.  The letter should tell me if they intend to land on our shores, what they have done about it, and their timeline and why they are interested in our job.  


While we do have a skill shortage here in my country, we also dont just hire on technical skill.  The hiring manager doesnt get to see the cover letter but I totally expect to see it.  It makes the difference to me between picking up the phone and moving on


Cover letters still have a strong place in my recruiting world.

Comment by Sylvia Allen on February 4, 2011 at 3:13pm

Do I read cover letters? Of course. Why wouldn't I read anything that gives me more information about who this candidate really is? --possibly more than the candidate intended to tell me. That said, I don't need the candidate to send me a formal cover letter. I do need a note in the email, telling me why I should be interested in this candidate for this PARTICULAR job, and why he or she is interested in this particular job. If the person can't communicate these things to me, or doesn't bother to, then this is not the right person for the job and I don't even need to see the resume. Next!


BTW, I realize that this discussion originally referred to IT candidates. I don't recruit IT candidates--I specialize in office support staff.


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