Is the Cover Letter Dead? What Managers Really Think

“How do I write a cover letter?”

The short answer is, Don’t worry about it unless the company asks for it.

Surprised? That’s not what your school guidance counselor told you? The truth is, fewer and fewer managers are relying on cover letters to vet a candidate. A study recently published by Addison Group confirmed that only 18 percent of managers ranked a cover letter as “important.”

In other words, that narrative you so thoughtfully crafted about your purpose in life might go straight to the trashcan.

Why are managers ditching the cover letter? This is occurring as Millennials rise in the workforce (see our previous post on an in-depth look at generational differences). Hiring managers are using alternative tools to understand their candidates such as social media and video interviews. A better use of your time might be cleaning up your Facebook and Twitter accounts (delete posts that are irresponsible or offensive, if applicable). The cover letter is getting mixed into a longer list of criteria when it comes to truly understanding who a candidate is.

According to the Addison Group, while the cover letter is becoming obsolete, there are still some traditional hiring practices that carry a lot of weight. The ones that matter most include:

  • The resume: this helps you get your foot in the door. Tailor it to the job you are applying for and list relevant work experience and skills you’ve used within the last ten years.
  • The interview: this is your opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, your demeanor and whether or not you are personally a good fit with the company’s culture.
  • Professional references: the more you can verify that you are who you say you are, the better.

So is there ever an appropriate time to write a cover letter? Occasionally. Some companies might still value this traditional practice. If you have a story to tell that can add depth to your resume, then it may be worth the time. Should you choose to write one, be very careful to make it excellent. If it is ridden with errors and poor writing, it could hurt you more than it helps.

As a job seeker, remember that your potential employer is trying to get the complete picture of who you are. Do you have the skills, expertise and experience to perform the job? Are you enthusiastic and interested in the job and the company? Will you fit into the team, culture and company? Whatever medium you use, if you can demonstrate that you are a “yes” to these three questions, you have a decent chance of landing the position.