Are cover letters still necessary?

***UPDATE***  The results to the post below are in.  See my conclusions HERE or HERE


Hi everyone.


An unusually short post from me this time around…. What do you mean, “Phew”? !!!


Recently I’ve been having some interesting discussions and debates on the relevance of our dear o’l friend, the cover letter in todays recruitment practices and processes.


I am firmly in the, “there’re a waste of time and hardly ever read anyway” camp but what do others think?


Are cover letters still a necessary requirement in the recruitment world of today or should they be banished to the crypts of recruitment past?


I’ve set up a little poll on LinkedIn and will be reporting on the findings, if enough people participate that is.


Simply vote by clicking on this link - to be taken to the poll (which is set to expire on Friday 19th August 2011)

Let the debate begin :-)

Views: 1224

Comment by pam claughton on August 10, 2011 at 1:03pm

I've found that A candidates tend to write A cover letters. So if I come across a stellar cover letter, it's often a strong indicator of an excellent candidate. Not always, but often enough that I pay attention to them. It also indicates attention to detail and level of interest in many cases. If someone can't be bothered to write a sharp cover letter, I think that speaks to their level of seriousness.


However, I always advise people to make the 'cover letter' a short and sweet email accompanying the resume, not a long, formal attachment. When they are attached, I usually skip right to the resume and may look at the cover letter after.

Comment by Ben on August 10, 2011 at 1:10pm

Thanks for the comment pam.  I think a short and sweet "covering email" is also a good idea - a parapgraph or two and now more should suffice. 


My post refers to the "traditional" covering letter that you refer to in the latter part of your comment.  The long winded additional attachment that accompanies some CVs - it's these that I think are becoming / should become obsolete.


If you haven't done so already please cast your vote on the poll I've created.  The link to which is  (included in the post but added here also for your convenience)




Ben :-)

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 10, 2011 at 1:51pm

Agree about the long regurgitation cover letters.  I refer to them as the how great i am cause i say so.

If a cover letter gives me relevant information that can not be included on the resume, or shouldn't be, as in;  "My family and i have recently made the decision to relo to the Denver area to be closer to aging family thus my reason for looking in that area at this time."  We have a contract on a home in the area currently and will be moving in three weeks."  "My salary range is in the 100 to 150K range adjusted for cost of living in the area."  "Our two college age children are already enrolled at the University of Denver and will be attending this fall."


This is relevant information that enables me present this candidate more strongly.  Although i would get that info in a phone interview i might not contact this candidate if my client has indicated they prefer local candidates only.  By providing this info in the cover letter the candidate has qualified themselves as being in the salary range, overcome any resistance to relo expense and identified themselves as a candidate who has a reason for moving to the area other than just being willing to relo anyplace and thinks Denver might be cool.


Give me a reason, other than a repeat of the info in the resume , to contact the person and the cover letter becomes valuable.  Much more so than just a resume with nothing attached.  I am much more likely to respond to a candidate, even if they don't fit a posting, if the cover letter is addressed to me and looks like they took the time to actually read the requirements instead of just the headline and push a button.


I get cover letters all the time that are addressed to another company or person in response to a different job.  Those are immediately deleted along with the candidate.  If they don't have enough sense to look at what they are sending me instead of just attaching a file that says cover letter, the cover letter becomes a knock out fast.


Short answer:  If a cover letter contains salary info, reason for looking, reason for relo it is valuable.

Otherwise 2 second quick scan and not read.

Comment by Ben on August 10, 2011 at 1:58pm
As always Sandra, a great response with some really pertinent points.  No doubt you've cast your vote on the LinkedIn poll I've set up? ;-)
Comment by Tim Spagnola on August 10, 2011 at 6:06pm
vote cast - I am in your camp Ben
Comment by Kirby Cole on August 11, 2011 at 10:59am
The problem with many cover letters is they are one size fits all companies, show zero interest in the actual position, and many times have incorrect info(job title, company, person addressed to).  The cover letters that make a splash say hey, look at me.  I checked out this job, I checked out you, I checked out your company, here is what I know and why I am a good fit.  Since most people don't do this, most cover letters are a waste of time.  An interesting study would be to check with the career coaches out there that are helping people write resumes and cover letters.  Often times you can spot those resumes/cover letters from a mile away, they all look the same, and they were written the same way 15 years ago.
Comment by Mark on August 11, 2011 at 11:09am

In my rather narrow world of senior level telecom engineers, cover letters offer little if anything of value.  I would say that the one thing that they do add is a demonstration of the candidates ability to write a cognizant business letter.  Of course, this only applies if the candidate wrote it himself rather than having a coach or professional writer as the author.


Overall, I don't pay much attention to them because they don't add to the candidate profile. As Sandra stated, "...2 second quick scan..."


The qualifier is that my candidates are going to be hired primarily based on technical qualification and customer customer facing skills.  In positions where soft skills and/or a good "bedside manner" are more relevant, a cover letter might matter.

Comment by Ben on August 11, 2011 at 11:13am

Hi Mark, Kirby. Thanks for your comments.  I truly appreciate it when folks take time out of their busy schedules to make a valuable, constructive contribution.  If you haven't already done so please pop over to the poll I've set up on LinkedIn and cast your votes -


I'll be writing a blog post on the results when the poll closes with the major findings, themes and learnings I identify.  Cheers again :-)

Comment by Amber on August 11, 2011 at 11:27am
I voted "yes" - of course assuming it is relevant, well written, and adds to the information I or a client would want to know in considering them. If it is addressed to someone else, very generic, or poorly written, then it is better left out. If I do see that type of cover, I have to say it is a big red flag and hard to get past.
Comment by John Heffron on August 11, 2011 at 12:11pm

Most cover letters I have seen are poorly written and a waste of time.  Think I can count on one hand the good one's I've seen.  As a corporate recuiter I am looking for relevant skill sets and work history which SHOULD be on the resume.


I vote no.


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