Cover letters are the bane of job hunting. No one likes writing them. No one likes reading them. Some hiring managers and recruiters admit throwing the cover letters out without reading them. Still, I love them.
To be clear, I love to get them. I hate writing them. They are a pain in the neck, and even though I write for a living, I find cover letters challenging to write.
Still, they are a valuable tool for job hunters and hiring managers alike. I can 100 percent support making cover letters optional, but always give an option. Here’s why.
If the job can’t be done from everywhere, you may wonder why someone who lives across the country–or the world–applied for your open position. Were they not paying attention to the location? Do they think you’ll bend on that location requirement and that you’ll let them work from home on the beach in Bali?
There’s no place on a resume to state, “I’m moving to your town in July.” Sure, you can put it on the top, but this is a time when a cover letter could come in handy.
If you’re searching for a senior accountant and get a resume from someone who is clearly an accountant, there is no need for a cover letter. You have an accounting job open, and this person is an accountant. It’s all clear.
But what if you’re hiring for a position in marketing and all the job titles on the resume are accounting titles. Did this person apply for everything? Did they make a mistake? Or are they looking to change careers?
In this situation, a cover letter can explain why they are looking to leave accounting and come into marketing. They could add details that don’t fit well on a resume. And even if they do work well on a resume, the average recruiter spends seven seconds deciding whether to move forward or not. Even though this person could be a great fit, all those accounting titles could send the resume into the recycle bin.
Yes, even when there is an overall labor shortage, that doesn’t mean there aren’t positions that will attract literally hundreds of qualified applicants. You don’t have time to screen a hundred qualified candidates personally, so cover letters can be a tool that helps you find what you are looking for.
If you are hiring writers, a well-crafted cover letter can be critical. If you’re hiring an accounts payable manager, you shouldn’t emphasize the literary qualities of the cover letter. It should be about the information, not the prose.
While I don’t think this will stop people from hating cover letters, consider making them optional. What you learn may help you hire better.