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Why do we still send cover letters with our job applications?

Yes, according to some recruiters. In the end, your cover letter is "your one chance" to stand out — to demonstrate what you bring to the role in a way that your CV or web profile can't adequately convey.

Job applications aren’t fun, but they appear to be a necessary evil throughout the majority of the process. Prepare for a marathon of interviews by proofreading your CV and sending a thank-you note after each one. However, one aspect of the job application procedure, writing a cover letter, appears to be oddly out of date.

Many of us despise writing cover letters, and they often appear pointless. According to a 2017 survey, only 26% of US recruiters think cover letters are significant in the hiring process. Cover letters, if nothing else, feel as old as a faxed CV – and should job seekers really have to waste time on the step they despise so much now, in a market that favors workers?

Yes, according to some recruiters. In the end, your cover letter is “your one chance” to stand out — to demonstrate what you bring to the role in a way that your CV or web profile can’t adequately convey. Cover letters, perhaps shockingly, may be more crucial than ever.

Letters are hard work.

Cover letters, we’ve been told, should complement your CV. They show off your personality and explain why you are interested in a particular role. But that’s precisely why job seekers despise writing them: it takes a long time to compose one, and then it takes even longer to alter it or write a fresh one from scratch for each job application.

If writing isn’t your strong suit, composing a cover letter can be extremely difficult. It’s clear why candidates in the creative industry might want a strong cover letter. Others, on the other hand, may consider a sharp cover letter an unreasonable request for a job that requires specific technical skills (and maybe no writing at all).

It’s similar to putting on make-up for an interview, in my opinion. It demonstrates that you’re serious about it — Kristie Loescher
When compared to simpler application processes like LinkedIn’s Easy Apply, which only needs a single click, spending hours on a draft can feel even more laborious. It’s not always evident why a company seeks more information from candidates during the first application process. It’s also tough to determine how much work you should put into a cover letter when some recruiters openly admit they don’t read cover letters — at least not as soon as an application crosses their desk.

Many organizations use online portals that don’t immediately deliver your application to a human; AI and algorithms scan your CV for keywords and discard it if those targeted terms aren’t there. Why compose a cover letter for an application that might be rejected before it even reaches a person, in that case?

Are you more relevant than you’ve ever been?

Experts suggest, however, that there has never been a better moment to include a strong cover letter with your application.

First and foremost, creating a thorough, detailed letter demonstrates that you are serious about landing the job. “I see it as akin to putting on make-up for an interview.” It demonstrates that you’re serious about it – that you’re prepared to put in some work,” says Kristie Loescher, a senior lecturer of management at the University of Texas at Austin and a corporate communications instructor.

Because it influences the quality of applicants, companies may request cover letters over easier application processes like Easy Apply. Recruiters may receive a lot of resumes that don’t match the job description or people who are “just out there fishing” if they use simple techniques, according to Loescher. A cover letter, on the other hand, immediately adds to your application and demonstrates your interest in the position. For example, Loescher says she looks for passion and energy in cover letters, and she wants to identify “people that are very thrilled about wearing [the University of Texas’s] burnt orange.”

Recruiters believe it’s worth putting work into cover letters, even if it’s boring, because you never know who will read it or why. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Recruiters believe it’s worth putting work into cover letters, even if it’s boring, because you never know who will read it or why. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

According to Kimberly McNeil, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, cover letters are especially important since they may be used to explain any gaps, which is important for many people who have been laid off or dropped out of the employment due to the epidemic (SHRM). Despite the fact that it is a job-market, seeker’s many people are acting on epiphanies they had during the epidemic to seek out work that is more meaningful to them or allows them more flexibility, according to McNeil. As a result, for many roles, the cover letter is still “critical” to distinguishing yourself.

If you’re attempting to change careers, it’s especially crucial to explain your motivation. If you’re applying for a creative job but have spent your entire career in a corporate setting, how can you persuade them that you’re genuinely creative? Experts recommend utilizing convincing language and real examples in your cover letter. “It’s addressing concerns without naming them,” Loescher explains. Your cover letter can help you anticipate queries that a hiring manager could have after reading your CV, increasing your chances of getting an interview.

Act as if it’s ‘coming into play.’

Importantly, not every employer, industry, or position will view a cover letter the same way. Some will give them more weight than others in order to identify a certain ability or interest; others merely want to see one connected as a hint that the candidate didn’t apply solely to save time.

Your cover letter might be used later in the application process – and it could be seen by several people.
For example, McNeil claims that your cover letter may be unread, at least at first, especially at large businesses. However, it may be relevant later in the application process — and might be read by various people. It may come into play much sooner in smaller businesses, particularly start-ups. Smaller businesses may not have the same AI-monitored application portals as larger businesses, so the cover letter could be the applicant’s first introduction to the employer, according to McNeil.

However, the writing process is still difficult. Loescher suggests keeping a cover letter template on available and filling in the spaces with information specific to the role or firm. You want to be distinctive and unique, and you don’t want to come across as scripted, yet keeping sane requires efficiency. “You have to weigh the work of writing one against the possibility that it may make a difference,” Loescher says.

You never know when a recruiter will see your cover letter until later in the process. “I think a lot of times we get hung up on the question of ‘will it or won’t it [be read]?'” McNeil adds. “Assume it’ll come into play at some point.”

This means that as a candidate, you must answer appropriately – no matter how insignificant it may seem.


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