Not only do many of us hate writing cover letters, but they often seem pointless. One 2017 survey showed only 26% of US recruiters consider cover letters important in the hiring process. If nothing else, cover letters feel as outdated as a faxed CV – and especially now, in a market favouring workers, should job applicants really have to waste time on the step they hate so much?
Yes, some recruiters still say. Ultimately, your cover letter is “your one opportunity” to stand out – to show off what specifically you bring to the position in a way that you can’t fully describe in your CV or with an online profile. And perhaps surprisingly, cover letters may be more important than ever.
The labour of letters
Traditionally, we’re told cover letters build on your resume. They showcase your personality; they explain why a specific role excites you. But that’s precisely why job hunters loathe writing them – it takes a long time to craft one, and then tweaking it or writing a new one from scratch for every single job application takes even longer.
Cranking out a cover letter can feel especially daunting if writing isn’t your forte. It’s easier to understand why candidates in creative industries might need a good cover letter. But for others, a sharp cover letter may seem an excessive ask for a job requiring specific technical skills (and maybe no writing at all).