Are Cover Letters Extinct?

CoverLetter_July_2013_WebFinding the job of your dreams isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a continual cycle of searching for openings, tweaking your resume, customizing your cover letter, and following up. It’s natural to get worn down and look for short-cuts in this process, and the most common step to get cut is the cover letter. After all, it takes some serious thought to express in a few short paragraphs why you’re a good fit for the job and how you can benefit the employer, all while weaving in your personality and credentials. The rise in technology has made cutting cover letters short even more widespread over the past few years, leaving many job seekers to wonder – “are cover letters extinct?”

An Ongoing Argument
Unfortunately, employers have not reached a unified answer. Some, like Phil Rosenberg, president of reCareered, an online hub for job search advice, think cover letters have gone the way of the dinosaur. In a 2009 study his company conducted a survey of hiring managers, Rosenburg found “90% ignored them and 97% made a decision whether to interview or not based only on the resume.” While others, such as Don Charlton, founder and CEO of The Resumator, an online hiring software firm, strongly disagrees. Charlton explained in a CNN article, “The cover letter is the only thing you have that separates the person from being a candidate and being a human being.”

Technological Oversight
One of the primary reasons that cover letters get a bad rap is due to an oversight in applicant tracking systems. With the influx of workers looking for jobs over the past five years, companies and recruiting firms have been overwhelmed with candidates. As they’ve turned to automated systems to manage and sift through job seekers, many have left off the option to attach a cover letter or failed to set up a keyword search for cover letters. Often times, recruiters and hiring managers only select candidates by the results of keyword searches of resumes.

A Dilemma
So, what’s a job seeker to do? Unless an employer has specifically said not to include a cover letter, it’s better to be safe than sorry and go the extra mile of providing one. If you’re dealing with an online system, just attach both your resume and cover letter when you’re prompted to upload documents. When sending an email with your resume attached, use your cover letter as the email message. Your message might help the employer decide to go the next step and view your attachment. If you’re worried that not attaching your cover letter could mean it will be overlooked, or if you’re worried about printability, Beyond, a professional networking and job search site, suggests attaching it as a text file as well.

You never know which side of the debate an employer might stand on, so don’t take a chance. Extra work up front is worth it if it helps you land an interview and find the job you’ve been looking for.

In your job search, what’s been your experience – cover letter or no cover letter? Join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts below.

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