How to write a great cover letter and why you should do it
Structure your cover letter in a way that helps you can stand out as a candidate and differentiate yourself from others
I regularly get asked by clients and job candidates if cover letters still matter these days when applying for jobs. Do you really need to include a cover letter? Do hiring managers or recruiters even bother to read them? Does a cover letter make any difference?
In short, yes, you should include a cover letter if the option exists.
Hiring managers not only read cover letters but also still expect them. According to ResumeLab, from polling over 200 hiring professionals, they found more than seven in 10 recruiters expect to receive a cover letter even if they mark them as “optional” in job ads. And yes, including a cover letter can help differentiate you from other candidates. ResumeLab says 83% of HR professionals think cover letters are essential when making hiring decisions. And over one-third (36 percent) of hiring professionals start the evaluation process with the cover letter.
So while not including a cover letter may not be a deal breaker or absolutely necessary, leaving out a cover letter creates some risk, namely around coming across as a candidate who isn’t willing to put in the effort that others have. It also increases the risk that the hiring manager will think you simply fired off your CV/resume to a bunch of employers, which is much easier to do than writing a customized cover letter for the specific role you’re applying to.
As a former hiring manager myself, I often found myself focused on ruling candidates out rather than ruling candidates in, namely because hiring mistakes are much more costly than passing on a candidate that could be a decent fit. When hiring someone onto a team, false positives are a bigger, long-term headache than false negatives that may elongate the hiring process. Reviewing a cover letter is one way to quickly figure out whether a candidate is serious about applying for a role.
Therefore, including a cover letter, at the very least, signals you’ve made effort to include one. I think of your resume as the “what” behind your candidacy while your cover letter is the…