With so many posts about recruiters not really having enough time to look at the resume, I was wondering how ( or if ) cover letters really play a significant role in the decision process. How do recruiters view cover letter as? Does a really bad cover letter spoil the chances even when supported by a good resume? In what situation a cover letter is better left off ?

  • This link provides a good insight : careerbuilder.com/Article/… "Generally, information technology clients with whom I've worked aren't interested in cover letters," shares Alan Guinn, managing director of Guinn Consultancy in Bristol, Tenn. – happybuddha Dec 31 '13 at 14:07
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    Most job applications at Google will say "we dont require a cover letter because we know how to judge better". I still don't think a cover letter is a necessity unless the job description asks for it. If the job description does, you already know the judging parameters of a job. – happybuddha Dec 31 '13 at 15:13
  • Maybe they don't read them, they are garbage, but they seem to be tradition. I've found if your applying to similar firms you can get a lot of mileage out of one good cover letter with minor changes. However, I did use get my current job via a recruiter who had no cover letter and a malformed copy of my CV... so I try not to understand recruitment. – Nathan Cooper Dec 31 '13 at 16:22
  • Even if an employer specifically states that they don't need a cover letter, I'm struggling to conceive a situation where providing one could actually hurt your chances. It might well be ignored, but I don't believe it could hurt. – Carson63000 Jan 2 '14 at 1:10

Yes as a hiring manager, a good cover letter is key.

I always say the cover letter is your sales pitch (why I should hire you), the CV/resume is the evidence to back up your claims. The cover letter should be laser focused on the role you are applying to and why you are what I'm looking for.

If an applicant can't put together a decent cover letter I will think twice before even reviewing the CV.

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    @JoeStrazzere Assuming communication skills are not a mandate for quite a few positions, I can only pity a hiring manager who cannot look beyond the flaws of a cover letter and decides that the candidate isn't a fit for the job. – happybuddha Dec 31 '13 at 14:01
  • Mark, in my (and a few buddies)over a decade's work experience in the US I have never applied with a cover letter, forget about a decent cover letter. So other than your personal experience, I wouldn't say a good cover letter is key. At best, it may be good to have a cover letter. – happybuddha Dec 31 '13 at 14:04
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    @happybuddha - I have 20 yrs experience in the UK as both an applicant and a hiring manager, from startups to multinationals, and here I doubt you'd have ever had an interview without one. As Joe says it's about showing communication skills, if you don't bother why should I? – The Wandering Dev Manager Dec 31 '13 at 14:33
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    Completely agree. As a hiring manager -- and primarily of developers -- I specifically call out the requirement in the ad, dismiss from candidacy anyone who doesn't include one, and the letter carries significant weight in terms of who moves on in my process (and who doesn't). – jcmeloni Dec 31 '13 at 14:59
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    @crusher - no always take the same care whatever the size, it's your first contact with the company, try to impress. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jan 1 '14 at 0:23

I'm going to go against the grain here a little.

In 13 years of IT experience, and 5 different employers, I have never written a single cover letter.

I have had these jobs and while hunting for the last one, got several offers. Also didn't send a single cover letter to any of those.

In short it is probably a good idea for MOST jobs. But if you are working in an in demand field, you may not need one because the resume may be enough.

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    +1 I think it's highly dependent on the "BS" factor of the job. Highly technical jobs like IT Worker might tend to bypass a cover letter and get right to the goods, your experience. A Middle-Manager or Sales position might want to chrome-polish their cover letter though. – Chris S Jan 3 '14 at 16:29
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    When I am looking for a job, I spend a lot of time looking around and applying. If I am not currently working, my job until I start working is to apply for jobs. Writing personalised cover letters for each application takes away time I could be applying for jobs. I have never used one and like yourself and I have never had a problem. – pi31415 Jun 27 '14 at 22:26
  • Note: even when talking specifically about an in-demand field, this answer is only saying that you can get by without cover letters - this does not mean a cover letter doesn't help you chances, and it's certainly not saying it hurts your chances. – Dukeling Jul 5 at 22:26

Skip the cover letter if the job posting site says to skip the cover letter.

Otherwise, providing a well-written cover letter will only help your chances.

In general - it's easy for a reader to gloss over information he doesn't care about if that information is well separated. Typically, a candidate will provide a cover letter and resume/CV in two separate files, or in a single file with a page break, so it's really no work at all to avoid reading something that doesn't interest the reader. I can't think of a time when a reviewer will see a cover letter and think "ick, why did you make me read this??", unless this is a case where you were explicitly told NOT to provide one -- in which case you fail the reading and following instructions test.

I'll admit, as a technical hiring manager, the first thing I read is not the cover letter. Generally my HR recruiter and possibly and external recruiter have already reviewed the candidate and the resume, and I'm only seeing the materials after a review has been done.

The thing that a cover letter does most helpfully is fill in the cracks when I'm thinking "huh, that's weird..." - it's the chance of putting a spin on the details that give me an insight I might not be able to draw. In particular, it's pushed me towards taking an interview with a candidate when:

  • The candidate's history was particularly unusual - no one's history is ever perfect, but if someone abruptly changed careers, went into the military, or dropped out of the working world for an extended period of time, I'm likely to wonder why - and the cover letter should help.

  • The candidate is currently making an unexpected change - a candidate that is dramatically changing industries or careers, moving from a big company to a very small one (or vice versa), or taking a big step down in pay and responsibility - are all "huh?" moments. They may be utterly explicable if I step back from the resume and read that cover letter.

In those cases, I or my colleagues have often seen an explication in the cover letter that has meant the difference between passing on the resume, or putting it at the bottom of the "maybe" pile, and actually making the effort to take the interview.

The time a cover letter will hurt you is if it's poorly written, poorly composed or reflects poorly on your character. As with any materials you provide, if they aren't high quality, it will make you look sloppy and careless.

Being dull as dirt, however, is not a drawback. There are plenty of times when it is hard to be interesting in a cover letter. I'd like to think you could say something worth reading about any job you are interested in, but I realize, particularly in technical work, we don't hire many people for their juicy composition skills.

A cover letter can summarize a CV and make it more focused on a particular position. You can indicate this is an industry you want to work with or you've heard positive things about working for this company. Of course these will get discussed in an interview, but you need to get there first. It's a good way to separate yourself from other candidates.

Also, a cover letter can help explain many potential questions about a CV:

  1. Gaps in employment
  2. Change in career and/or focus on different type of job/skillset.
  3. Reasons for leaving current position.
  4. Relocation concerns. Your job history and current address are in another location, but you are planning on moving.

Many of these concerns have shown-up as question on this site and one piece of advice is to address them in a cover letter.

Yes, companies want to hire people who want to work at their company. People work better and harder when they believe in what they are doing and people stick with companies they are interested in through hard times.
A cover letter says that you have set some time aside to write something for this specific company and not just included them in a mass application to as many companies as possible. So it shows that you are in fact interested in this specific company.

As well as that a decent cover letter will pick out the skills you think apply directly to this position. CVs come in many shapes and sizes and when you receive bulk applications it's pretty tedious to go through them all and root out information relevant to the job, things can be missed and you'll stand out if your application is less tedious.
It's also good for the employer to see what parts of your skill set you feel is relevant because that says something about you and what you understand about the position.

Customize your CV for positions you apply for and always include a cover letter that mentions this specific company. You are trying to a. show that you are interested in this specific company and b. make it easy for the reader to analyze you. Lastly, keep it short. Reading massive amounts of large cover letters is just as tedious as rooting out information from CVs.

The Job interview process is a process of elimination. If you are a computer programmer, you don't need a cover letter. It's hard to find computer programmers to fill positions. They won't eliminate you from consideration without one.

However, if you applying for a job where there are more applicants like sales or management, you will get eliminated because you don't have a cover letter and someone else does. They have to limit down the number of people that they interview somehow. A bad cover letter will get you eliminated even faster.

I guess I'm saying Jobs are awarded based up competition. You have to run faster than the guy beside you. If he has a cover letter you need a better one.

How do recruiters view cover letter as?

This is how you should understand what a resume is & what a cover letter is:

– A cover letter is a casual summary of who you are. - A resume is a dry list of employment history & achievements.

Once you understand that, a cover letter will always make sense. A cover letter basically says the follow, “Hey, I heard of this opening & I thought I would apply. Here is a summary of who I am, what I current do & what my goals are.”

A resume will never do that. A resume will just enforce the ideas presented in a cover letter, but it’s typically a chronological history of employment. And the main focus of a resume will be: What did you do in past jobs, what are specific achievements & how long did stay there.

These items compliment each other. And when you interview for the position, your whole song & dance during that interview will most likely be an improvisation between you and the interviewer on the points in both.

No one thing assures you will do better than others. But all of the items taken together—the cover letter, the resume & the interview—will paint a complete picture of who you are. Leave out a cover letter & the message sent is, “This person simply sees this as a job & paycheck… Do we want to deal with that?” Which is not the impression you want to make.

It all depends on how you use the cover letter.

I'll use that space to show a little bit of my personality (in my writing style), and to summarize why they really, really, really want to look at my resume for the role in question. Often, I'll repeat back the bullet-points of their job description to them - or at least, the ones I have, with any necessary modifications (example: if they ask for 2 years web content publishing experience and I have more than four, I may put 3+ or 4+ depending on whether or not the position strongly utilizes that particular skill. If a position asks for 3 years' project coordination but I only have 2.5, I'll put 2.5 years' project coordination.) I may include one or two extra bullet points if they're truly outstanding in terms of my experience AND applicability for the role in question, but never more than that. The bullet-point reiteration of the JD helps the HR screeners quickly identify a resume for the "to the hiring manager" pile. I may also list off a reason or two that I find this position, or their company (or both) highly interesting.

Cover letters can make the difference between your resume being routed to the hiring manager for additional review, and being put into the "not quite a good fit" pile - even if the particular HR person in question is having a ridiculously busy day, a well-written cover letter makes their job that much easier.

If you're emailing a resume, your cover letter can either be an additional attachment (slightly more formal) or in the body of the email (slightly more casual). If you're using an online submission tool, always have a separate cover letter file.

@JeffO and @bethlakshmi also both have good points: do not include a cover letter if the site (or JD) explicitly says not to; and if you've recently changed careers or are entering the workforce after a long-ish gap, the cover letter is a good place to provide a short explanation.

EDIT: yes, to speak to your point, a badly-written cover letter can get your resume sorted into the "don't bother" pile - but it almost has to be outstandingly bad. Have it checked for grammar, spelling, and general writing flow. Customize it for each job you submit for. (This answer, by the way, would make an absolutely shite cover letter because of the length. But schools don't really teach people how to write any kind of business correspondence any more, so...'verbose and explanatory' it is.)

I think that the cover letter indeed could be a plus nevertheless I am not insist on it and mostly doesn't spoil the chances. This my view because I think that to write a good cover letter is hard work. If I check the CV and find some significant points in it I get in touch with the candidate and at this stage she\he can say the sales pitch. I have better experience with the live conversations instead of paper based communication but I am sure about that the cover letter could be a standard documentation in some industry.

  • No doubt and I think the same if someone want to get a good job she\he makes sense to work hard for it. Nevertheless some kind of people can't create poignant cover letters\CVs\sales pitch and so on. I am talking with these guys day after day and try to improve their skills regarding the paper based communication or the personal branding as well. My second fear is when the candidates are ask for help another friend to write the cover letter and they try to cheat on different levels. Therefore I am taking for the personal relation deeply. – user7522 Dec 31 '13 at 15:35

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