Ask LH: Does Anyone Still Care About Cover Letters?

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Dear LH, I have a question about job applications. Job portals like Seek provide an easy process where you can apply for a job in a few clicks. This is meant to make life easier and enable people to apply with their mobile phones.

However, what about the Cover Letter?? Isn't that still required? I find this very confusing as it implies that a cover letter is redundant. However, wherever I read about job hunting tips, there is always a strong emphasis on the cover letter. Am I supposed to type the cover letter out on my phone? Or what? Thanks, Regards Confused

Dear Confused,

We wouldn't call the cover letter redundant - but nor is it an essential requirement for most job applications. As we have long argued, the meat of your application needs to be in your resume: this is all prospective employers are really interested in.

A cover letter is a useful way of conveying your enthusiasm for the position at hand. It can also help to demonstrate your mastery of language, which is an important component of many jobs.

However, it's never going to be the deciding factor in landing an interview. Indeed, many hiring managers treat them as an empty formality that aren't even worth reading. (This is especially true if it came in a separate attachment.)

Here's what veteran recruiter Chadd Balbi has to say about cover letters, based on his experience with job hunters and employers (emphasise ours):

"We live in a social media world where 140 characters is the max attention our brain can offer. Consequently, hiring managers would like to decide if you are a fit as quickly as possible. A study by The Ladders revealed that on average recruiters review resumes for about 6.25 seconds before determining if you are a fit. A cover letter unfortunately does not fit into this equation. While I am sure the candidate spent a good amount of time preparing what they would like to say, cover letters get skimmed over with little to no interest."

With that said, it obviously all depends on what the employer wants. If a job listing specifically requests a cover letter and resume, it would be silly not to include the former. Even if they are only requesting a cover letter out of habit, why take the risk?

On the other hand, if that Seek listing makes no mention of a cover letter, feel free to apply straight through the app. If your resume's got the goods, you should have nothing to worry about.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    From experience, I don't think cover letters are important to be hired, but I think they are important to NOT be discarded as not caring for the position.

    That being said it all depends on the field. In academia it's all about putting your top publications/grants/patents on your CV. In software development it's always nice to have a portfolio of evidence of your previous achievements. And all in all... References from a previous employer/teacher go a long way...

    If a position is asking for a cover letter, don't apply through your phone. Wait until you get home or you have access to a computer somewhere and type one out properly and spell check it. The job will still be there in a few hour's time, you don't need to rush it.

    It depends on the role. I recruit high level admin staff for my company. No cover letter? Gone, no chance. Crappy cover letter, nope nope nope. I need to know that you can write and format a letter, it's basic and imperative. Even in the world of email. So if a job ad asks for a cover letter, please don't disregard it because it's obsolete or old fashioned, if we ask, we want!

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