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11 Recruiters Answer: Are Cover Letters REALLY Necessary?

After resume page length, the necessity of cover letters is one of the most controversial topics out there. Some recruiters and hiring managers claim cover letters mandatory, while others share that they’re a waste of time.

In my mission to help people find jobs they LOVE, I asked some trusted recruiters if cover letters are really necessary. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Cover letters are similar to selfies.

Cover letters are like selfies: if you’re not going to do it exceedingly well (where your personality shines through and it enhances — not detracts from — what we already know about you), don’t bother. – Rachel Conard, Chief Talent Officer, 1st St. NW Technical Staffing

2. It depends.

For most opportunities, no. It leaves ‘room for error’ and even more ‘opinion.’ There are exceptions – I’d say for marketing roles and executive level roles that stress stellar communication skills, it can be important. Same for sales roles – a well-written cover letter can serve as a sample of your ability to ‘pitch.’ – Jason Figueroa, Executive Recruiter, ThinkingAhead

3. Writing a cover letter is dependent on the ATS.

If a candidate sees the job is posted using Greenhouse or Lever, you don’t have to worry too much about a cover letter. But for companies that use an Application Tracking System that’s more enterprise-like or traditional, stay on the safe side and have a professional cover letter ready. – Helen Chao, Founder of Interview Right Consulting and Ascenditur Recruiting

4. Cover letters? They’re like car insurance.

Cover letters are like car insurance. They’re annoying and seem unnecessary until you need them. A well written and customized cover letter might be what tips the scales in your direction. It might also never be read. If you’re in a job search and really want a job at a certain company – I’d rather put it all on the table and not need it than not get it knowing I could have done more. – Greg Johnson AKA RecruitinGreg

5. Put important info directly on your resume.

I have never been a huge fan of cover letters. If resumes get looked at for 6 seconds on average, who is reading the cover letter? The goal is to put all of the missing information on the resume – explanations for movement, career goals, why you‘re a good fit, reasons for a gap, etc. – Rebecca Oppenheim, Co-Founder/Managing Partner of nextOPP Search

6. Cover letters can be a real differentiator.

I am a huge fan of cover letters. It gives a solid example of written communication and can be a great differential. – Heather Hanshaw, Senior Recruiter, Vernovic

7. Unless asked for, you don’t need to include one.

I work in sales mostly and rarely ever read them. I do not believe they are necessary unless asked for specifically. – Shaun Hervey, Recruitment Consultant

8. Cover letters are getting less popular.

Covers letters are becoming a thing of the past slowly but surely. I say no unless specified otherwise. – Bre Pybus, Sales & Marketing Recruiter, BlueWave Resource Partners

9. Focus on your resume and building a connection instead.

No, cover letters aren’t as important to me. I prefer the combo of resume and getting to know the candidate personally (via phone, video or in person). – Tricia Tereul, Resource Manager, Robert Half, HR Services Division

10. Include a note in the body of your email.

This depends on the job. Sometimes cover letters do more harm than good so if you’re going to make a point to send one, be sure it is well-written and gives a quality reason for consideration. I think the traditional format has become a little outdated so, if nothing else, be sure you leave a note in the body of an email that is thoughtful in why you should be considered for an opportunity. Googling a template is nice, but those are often fluffed up with phrases that don’t provide a ton of meaning behind your qualifications. – Megan Waelz, Senior Associate Recruiter, R4R, Russell Tobin

11. Only include a cover letter if it’s unique.

A cover letter is only necessary if you make it unique or if you’re trying to make a point that the recruiter cannot understand when looking at your resume if it’s just a copy of your CV don’t include it at all. – Henry Landau, Executive Recruiter, First Health Pro.

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