The debate rages on as to whether cover letters are useful or a waste of time/effort/money. At a conference I attended in October, a panel of 4 hiring managers and recruiters gave a less-than-enthusiastic response when asked whether they read the cover letters that accompanied applicant resumes. If I remember correctly, one of them indicated that he did read them (at least part of the time), but I think the other panelists basically said they did not. On the other hand, I and many of my colleagues have seen our clients achieve a positive result from submitting a well-written cover letter with their resume. So…who reads cover letters, and is sending them a wasted effort?
It’s pretty well impossible for you to know ahead of time whether the person who receives your submission is going to read the cover letter. In the past, I’ve heard some managers say they always read the cover letter because it gives them another insight into the candidate, while other managers will say they read the cover letter if they like what they see on the resume–and still others will turn thumbs down on the whole idea of cover letters. In other words, the reactions are spread out all over the map! Unfortunately, that’s not particularly helpful to you as a job seeker.
My take on this is that it could be a good idea to assume someone will read the letter and send one with your resume for each job opportunity you’re really interested in pursuing. If your letter is well done, you won’t hurt your chances for consideration and might increase the odds in your favor. That’s worth making an effort to write a cover letter yourself or–if you’re paying a professional to create the letter–investing some money in it, as a potential aid to your career success.
Undoubtedly, these aren’t the only cover letter mistakes job seekers can make–and have made–but they can give you some clues as to what to avoid.
Good cover letters can matter and are usually worth doing; bad cover letters are worse than no cover letter at all. Make sure you know the difference between the two!