Cover letters – nobody likes writing them and not many people like reading them either. Surely they’re a hangover from the pre-digital age and a part of the recruitment process we should joyously consign to the dustbin and focus on the equally dull task of updating our CVs?
Quite possibly. Times are changing and in many industries the cover letter’s days appear to be numbered. Of course in more traditional sectors, think government and health, including one with your application is still expected, but if a progressive company doesn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, and many don’t, it’s safe to say you don’t need to send one (although if you’re unsure, check).
New technology is changing the recruitment process
Job portals and recruitment software allows candidates to create detailed CVs and apply automatically for relevant jobs without a cover letter. And many digital application forms don’t even give you the option of uploading one, often opting for a comment section as a less formal way for candidates to introduce themselves and show their relevance to a position.
recruiters are always trying to reduce how long recruitment takes
More and more companies are focusing on reducing hiring times which means tedious activities like reviewing cover letters are the first to go. Even if this wasn’t the case, many have decided they’re a waste of time. Most seasoned recruiters will be able to get a very good idea of the suitability of a candidate by scanning through their CV and sometimes won’t even open the attached cover letter.
But they can still be effective
Having said all of that, if you’re asked to send a cover letter it’s a good opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a competitive jobs market.
You can highlight the skills and qualifications you have that are most relevant to the role, tailoring your profile around the key criteria outlined in the job description and giving the reader (hopefully the hiring manager) an insight into who you really are.
Of course the downside, apart from the painful process of writing one, is that a badly written cover letter is likely to kill your application before it’s got started. So make sure it’s well written and, crucially, mistake free.
Can we look forward to a cover letter-free future?
They’re not dead yet, but the writing is definitely on the wall. I predict it won’t be long before they bite the dust and in years to come we’ll be telling our incredulous grandchildren about the quaint and pointless art of the cover letter. Of course that doesn’t mean writing won’t play a part in your job search, you’ll still need to be able to sell yourself using the written word on digital application forms, on social media and, occasionally, on paper.