New Research Uncovers the Importance of Cover Letters

  • McLean Mills
  • April 14, 2020
Importance of Cover Letters

Before you start applying to jobs, there are two essential files you need to have ready to go: your resume and cover letter. While a resume is a document you can update once and use over and over again for all of your applications, cover letters are a bit different. A cover letter must be tailored to each of the individual jobs and positions you are applying for, as the purpose of a cover letter is to showcase and expand upon why you believe you are an excellent candidate for that exact role.

A common question in the job recruiting world is whether it is worth it to include a cover letter with your application if it is not mandatory for the application you are applying for. Job seekers are also often wondering even if you do include a cover letter with your application, is it worth it to spend the time personalizing for each job?

It is true that cover letters do require additional effort and time, and it may seem like an easy shortcut to skip it all together or paste in a generic version you can use over and over again. However, new research indicates it matters more than you might think!

Hiring Managers and Recruiters Weigh In

While you are spending your time writing a cover letter, you might find yourself wondering if anyone is ever going to read it, and if they do, are they really going to take the time to read the whole letter? The answer might surprise you. According to a survey conducted by a resume writing service, ResumeGo, 87% of hiring managers said that they take the time to read cover letters when they are submitted as part of the application. That’s an overwhelming majority!

This indicates that the information you are including in your cover letter ought to be well thought out, as there really is a human reading it on the other side of the screen. In fact, 65% of hiring managers responded that an applicant writing a cover letter materially influenced their decision on who to hire.

Furthermore, it is worth your effort to take the extra time to customize each cover letter you write to that specific job opportunity. 81% of hiring managers and recruiters said they value a cover letter that is tailored to their specific company and job opening significantly more than generic cover letters.  Additionally, 61% of of recruiters stated they felt it was “very important” to avoid using a generic cover letter.

While it might seem like an innocuous shortcut to send out a generic cover letter, the job recruiters can usually tell. In fact, 78% of them think it is fairly easy for them to make this distinction between a generic vs a tailored cover letter. With that in mind, taking that extra five minutes to make it unique could really make a huge difference in the long run!

Why Your Cover Letter Matters

As mentioned, you should view your cover letter as an opportunity to expand further upon your resume and your background. 59% of the hiring managers said they read cover letters because they can provide valuable insights about an applicant. So you can use this to your advantage! Take the time to add in details about yourself that could really help you beat out the competition. While not every hiring manager or human resources employee is going to take the time to appreciate your hard work, it could make a big difference for a job that really matters to you!

Avoid Making These Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Just like with resume writing, there are definitely things you want to avoid doing on your cover letter to prevent hurting your chances of landing a job. The biggest faux paus? Over 70% of hiring managers said the most common mistake they see is a candidate having a poorly written cover letter. While it’s pretty general feedback, it further highlights how important it is to take the time to structure and plan your cover letter out properly. Read it back a few times to ensure it sends a succinct message and make sure you have friends and family review it – just like you would your resume. Lastly, make sure you used a professional template to build your cover letter. A sloppy or unprofessional page format could also hurt your job chances.

Another common mistake the recruiters surveyed mentioned was having a cover letter that indicates you aren’t qualified or a good fit for the job. It’s important to keep in mind what the purpose of your cover letter is to begin with. It’s meant to show how you’re experience and skillset is just what is needed for the job you’re applying for. Highlight the things you’ve done that scream, “I’m the perfect match for the job” and make yourself out to be a strong cultural fit.

Overall, the research would indicate you should absolutely keep writing those personalized, job-specific cover letters. It’s not guaranteed to land you the job of your dreams, but it could certainly move the needle and set you apart from the rest!