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The Great Cover Letter Debate: Are they still needed?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get at least a couple times a week are about the need for cover letters. Some online job applications only require one uploaded document. We’ve also learned that ATS scanners are searching your resumes for keywords and phrases. This can leave job seekers confused and wondering whether a cover letter still when applying for a job. Is a cover letter still important? In a word: Yes. However, much like the rest of the job search process, it may be a case-by-case decision. For example, keep the following in mind: If an application is only requiring one document, then include your resume only. However, if there are opportunities to include a second upload or a space to craft a note to the employer, make sure you take advantage of it and include a cover letter. Here are 5 reasons why it’s a great idea to include a cover letter.

1. Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), scan all uploaded documents so including a cover letter will give you the opportunity to include more keywords and important phrases.

2. Apart from the “About Me” section of your LinkedIn profile page, your cover letter is one of the only fluid areas where you can write in a more expansive way, showing off your excellent written communication skills.

3. Cover letters allow you to further support some of the key points on your resume with additional examples and emphasis on skills and qualifications that make you qualified for the roles you are targeting.

4. Cultural fit is an important factor in hiring the right employee, but your resume isn’t the right platform for sharing why some of your incredible personality traits make you a good fit. Use a short paragraph on your cover letter to let your future employer know why you see yourself working for the company. Why that company? Where does their mission align with your values? And why do you believe you are a good fit?

5. Leverage the cover letter to show you’ve done research on the company. For example, you may want to reference an award they’ve won, the new CEO they’ve hired, or a recent achievement they earned may have read about in the media. This shows you’ve gone the extra mile to learn about the company and comes across as discerning, passionate and dedicated.

The fact of the cover letter matter is that ultimately from a hiring end, you don’t actually know which came first—the resume or the cover letter? Some hiring managers may be reading your cover letter to get an overview before opening your resume. Or reverse, they may be looking at your cover letter to learn more about you after reviewing your resume. When it comes down to it, consider the cover letter as a bonus opportunity to make an impactful first impression.


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