Ditch The Cover Letter When Applying For A Job

The cover letter is a mainstay of job applications and job sites, but all too often they're discarded unread while the hiring manager's attention goes to the meat of the application: the resume. The blog Wise Man Say has a revolutionary suggestion: ditch it altogether and put that energy towards customising your resume, making connections or building a portfolio of your actual work you can invite a potential employer to see.

Photo by Dita Dita Margarita.

There is a caveat here — if the job application specifically calls for a cover letter, you should obviously include one, and we have some tips on how to write a good cover letter. If you're applying to a position via email, or directly to the hiring manager or company's HR department, attaching a separate cover letter is just one more attachment in the recipient's inbox — one that Wise Man Say says will never get opened.

Speaking as someone who's been on both sides of this table, I can say that when I got candidates through an HR system full of resumes, the cover letters were usually stripped by the resume system, and when I got direct applications from people I knew, their resume was the important part of their message. What do you think? Do you think the cover letter is dead and gone, or does it still have a place? Sound off in the comments below.

When to Write a Cover Letter (Hint: Never) [Wise Man Say]

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Comments

    i still think the cover letter is a vital part of any application.
    I used my cover letters to demonstrate specifically why i a suited to the job i am applying for, and thus rewrite my cover letter for every application; while my resume contains the more generic information applicable to any job i am going after.

    i think the major reason (other than being time poor) cover letters are thrown out is that people tend to simply write cover letters that regurgitate what is in their resume without adding any new value. In this case a cover letter is obviously a waste of time, but if done correctly i believe it can be the difference between being 1 of the hundreds of generic candidates applying for the job and being the one who gets the interview

    Totally disagree... I see my supervisor go through job applications all the time and he discards the applications that do not have a cover letter attached. I realise I only speak about one circumstance here and I know a lot of companies would do things different. However, as jobs are relatively scarce I would not take the risk and always use a cover letter.
    I agree with "P1R" above. A cover letter, done correctly, definitely adds value to your application.

      +1 to this. I specifically ask for cover letters when recruiting, I think they're a place to show a bit of personality over a CV that is often written by someone else/updated from a template 10 years old etc. If I specifically ask for a cover letter in an ad and don't receive one I discard the resume and assume it is a pro-forma rather than anything directed specifically to me (same goes for pro-forma cover letters as well).

      Also agree with Christian - I know a number of employers, my own included who simply discard anyone who doesn't provide a cover letter. It's far too easy for people to apply for jobs on sites like Seek and the like - if you advertise any position then employers just get spammed with resumes (many with no credentials relating to the job at all) and it's a chore to go through them all.
      A cover letter is your chance to stand out and show a bit of personality and interest in the position that is being offered.

    Glad you added that caveat - I'm going through a stack of resumes, and the ones without cover letters are instantly discarded.

    Personally, I believe there needs to be a balance... I should be able to read a cover letter as a summary of why you'd be suitable for the job I'm offering, and then I'll go to the resume for specific examples.

    If you went to the trouble to put together a cover letter, I'll go to the trouble of reading your resume.

    Of course don't attach a cover letter when sending a direct email, when it could all go in there, but simply opting to not include one is poor advice.

      Yes, of course you can ask for a cover letter, and if that's how you choose to work you can.

      Disregarding those that don't provide a cover letter is hugely damaging though, and massively unfair to the applicant. Denying an ideal applicant a job opportunity is bad for the employer and the employee.

      Last edited 29/03/13 10:11 pm

    The last two times I was looking for work, I would not even get a response without a cover letter. It got to the point where I could use the same resume for all applications as long as I customised the cover letter to cover the requirements mentioned in the job ad. It was while doing this that I got the closest to a job.

    Government departments are likely to cull applicants based on criteria specifically stated or not stated in a cover letter.

    Your resume/cover letter package are your absolute "best foot forward" to a company. Why miss an opportunity to impress.? No one will ever eliminate a candidate for including a cover letter. Can the same be said for a missing cover letter?

    Cover letters are boring as shit. Rather than "I used my cover letters to demonstrate specifically why i a suited to the job i am applying for, and thus rewrite my cover letter for every application" I rewrite my resume for every application.
    When I have used cover letters, it's been something really short (a couple of esntences) and catchy to entive the mto read the actual content of the resume or it has been as per the job ad request, addressing selection criteria as required (usually for govt. jobs)

    I always include and always look for a cover letter. It shows how you can succinctly introduce yourself and write a business letter.
    Also - I am amazed at the high proportion of people who do not bother to call the contact person to ask about the job and introduce themselves. This can be a missed opportunity.

    Cover letters are boring to do, hard to address (particularly if you're after profession jobs/graduate positions). In my personal experience when doing CV screenings, I found that going for the more "menial" jobs don't require cover letters, as we didn't even check ONE (went straight for the resume) - but for corporate positions, they are a must. So many people with similar qualifications are vying for a position and the cover letter generally makes or breaks the application.

    I fully agree with the article, and have been working accordingly for years.

    Cover letters are worthless. Why? Because they're all the same.

    Hi there, I'm great and really suitable for the job. Have a look at my resume and find out for yourself.

    The above would be the best cover letter ever, simply because it's short.

    Complete waste of time. The recruiter should always go for the resume first. Hardly a revolutionary suggestion, but certainly a good one.

    I agree. It is a waste of time and can make or break your application. Even though your resume actually meets or exceeds their requirements. The challenge is to introduce yourself in a concise manner but still making yours stand out. The problem here is when there are 2 of you competing for the position and say you have more experience than the other. For example you can write about 10 actual experiences while the other only has 3. Both of you write concisely and you end up writing about 3 while he obviously wrote about 3 also. In the face of the hiring officer, he sees that both of you are just the same. Now imagine if there are more applicants for the position. In my opinion, focusing on the summary section of a resume is a better way to scan applicants since it serves the same purpose only better.

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