Should you include a Cover Letter? The answer may surprise you.


The cover letter myth

You may have from friends, career counselors, and your bus driver that cover letters are a waste of time. We respectfully disagree.  The question you should be asking yourself is the following: “Is the source that is providing this advice a professional recruiter? Do they make their living sorting through cover letters and resumes? Does their reputation rely on forwarding good candidates to the hiring manager?”

You should absolutely include a cover letter. Don’t even think about not including a cover letter.

Worried that your cover letter won’t be read? Fair, we get it. Friends tell you that you shouldn’t write a cover letter? We heard it too. Both would be wrong assumptions.

The goal of a cover letter

First, we need to review the goal of a cover letter. The cover letter is designed to “cover” your resume. We can’t just send in a resume with no reference to the position we are interested in. That’s an amateur move. We need an intro with a flourish. With that in mind, we absolutely need a cover letter.

Ineffective cover letters are not read. Cover letters that include opinions of our performance like, “I am a hard worker, a team player and show initiative” are not read. The folks at Career Tracker have years of experience reading cover letters and resumes. We have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And some that just make you sad. Like, totally depressed. So awful that you decide to start a company devoted to solving this problem and write blog posts about it. 

There is an easier way

We know what generates a read, what gets tossed, and what will frustrate the hiring manager. Read on and we will explain what hiring managers want to see in a cover letter and how your cover letter can make a difference.

Not sure where to begin? No worries, mates! We have an easy-to-use Cover Letter Templates that will help you write a cover letter that will generate excitement.

You need to think of your cover letter in two different ways. One is from your perspective as the candidate. The other perspective is the one that matters. The perspective of the hiring manager.

Perspective number 1: The Candidate’s

Too many candidates assume that their cover letter will not be read, so they don’t even bother to include one. Based on our experience, out of 100 applications, less than 20 will include cover letters. Because there are so few cover letters it’s actually easy for your application to stand out. Low hanging fruit is always the sweetest! Or something like that…

Of the 20 percent of applicants that include cover letters, only a few are worth reading. So, what makes a cover letter worth reading vs. recycling? Most cover letters are tossed along with the resume based on the following:

The mistakes

  • A good percentage of these cover letters have typos. In the age of autocorrect, this is veddy, veddy bad. This is the first indication of how your company emails will be written, and in general shows a lack of attention to detail.
  • A few cover letters were recycled by the candidate. These are cover letters from applications to other companies. We can tell they were recycled because they refer to other jobs and other companies. Ugh! C’mon, dudes and dudettes! This is yet another reflection of our attention to detail. If the hiring manager thinks you might send out the wrong contract to a potential client, game over. 
  • A number of cover letters are just overwhelming. They cover entire pages under the misguided assumption that spewing more information will cover more bases. If your cover letter is more than 1 page, it is definitely not going to be read. In fact if it is more than half a page, it may not be read. Note: for more senior positions and candidates with a lot of experience, longer is generally a bit more accepted. 
  • Cover letters are disregarded when they state the candidate’s personal opinion without any supporting evidence. For example, simply declaring, “I am a hard worker, I show initiative, or I am a team player” are just the candidate’s opinion. You need to explain why these things are so. “I developed a strong work ethic during my time on wall street as an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse, where I routinely working over 100 hours a week.” Now that is saying something.  Your hiring manager will ultimately be the judge of your hard work and initiative. Businesses want facts and data. 

Take heart. Because there are a lot of bad cover letters floating around, it’s easy to make your cover letter stand out.  

Perspective number 2: The Hiring Manager’s 

Hiring managers read a lot of cover letters. The first thing you want to do is to remember the goal of the cover letter, which is to “cover your resume”. In addition, the resume can generate momentum and put the hiring manager in the right frame of mind as they read your resume. The cover letter is not going to land us a job or get us an interview, but what it can do is ensure your resume is read with enthusiasm instead of doubt or skepticism. 

Length does matter

Most cover letters are full pages and which can be overwhelming and result in a non-read. Why haven’t you climbed Mount Everest? Well, just take one look at it! Why would you even try?! It’s the same thing 🙂 You want to make it easy on the hiring manager to read your document over others. You will be demonstrating that you’re qualified as quickly as possible.  

Instead of talking about how hard working, friendly, or smart you are, look at the top bullets in the job description and explain to the reader why you are qualified for these specific bullets. When you answer these specific bullets in your cover letter your resume will be read with enthusiasm.  This is what the hiring manager is looking for.

Key Takeaway: Do write a cover letter and include it with your resume. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just write the cover letter using this proven cover letter format.

Read our Cover Letter format to learn how to write your cover letter.


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