Are Cover Letters Still Necessary When Applying for a Job?

Are cover letters a thing of the past? Do recruiters even read them? We got a career expert to get us up to speed.

typingIntarapong/ShutterstockIn today’s fast-paced, tech-obsessed world, is it really necessary to submit a cover letter when job seeking? Can’t your resume—or email intro—speak for itself? According to Certified Business Coach Christy Wright, author of Business Boutique, even though it’s 2017, job seekers should still submit a cover letter along with their resume.

For starters, it’s basic manners to send one. “Like opening a door for someone, taking your hat off at dinner, or writing a handwritten thank-you note, submitting a cover letter with your resume is a gesture that most people appreciate,” says Wright. “In fact, in a culture where abbreviated texts and emojis are the norm for daily communication, adding a layer of formality, respect, and professionalism can be the very thing that makes your application rise to the top of the stack.” Here are ways to make your resume stand out.

Are cover letters really necessary?

“No, they aren’t necessary in many companies, and you can probably land a position in many companies without one,” says Wright. Especially with the electronic job applications many companies are using via sites like LinkedIn. “But if you’re approaching the job you’re interested in with the mindset of doing the bare minimum, then you may have a bigger problem on your hands,” she adds. Your employer may also run a background check–here’s how long that will take. 

Cover letters show your willingness to go the extra mile

According to Wright, it takes only a few minutes to crank out a cover letter—two to three paragraphs, max, and it’s worth it. “Ask yourself: What is the very most that you can do to make an outstanding first impression and get your foot in the door?” Wright says. Consider consulting with a career advisor for advice on how to write a cover letter that really showcases your skills and personality. Once you have a basic letter, you can make minor tweaks to customize it for different job applications. Here are ways to answer tricky interview questions.

interviewProduction Perig/ShutterstockCover letters go beyond your resume

Yes, your resume will cover your experience and core competencies, so don’t make the mistake of summarizing that information in paragraph form. “Your cover letter has a different purpose,” explains Wright. “It should show your personality and share your ‘why’—why do you want this position and why do you want to work for this company? Share your story and your heart.”

Here’s a secret that will change your tune on writing cover letters: “Most great companies hire for attitude and train for skill,” Wright says. That’s why you’ll want to make sure that your character, values, and attitude shine in your cover letter. “If you do that, your letter will not only stand out among the competition, but it could be the thing that gets you the offer you’ve been waiting for.”

Ultimately, the cover letter can be just a important as the resume itself, even today, so do send one to stand out.

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Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol is a longtime contributor to Reader's Digest, tackling mostly cleaning and health round-ups. A journalism graduate of Emerson College, she's a former education writer, beauty editor, and entertainment columnist.