Are cover letters necessary in 2021? Do employers really care about cover letters?
Career experts don’t unanimously agree on whether job seekers should submit a cover letter with their résumé. You will probably never get 100% agreement on this topic. However, I, and most career professionals I know, believe it’s a good idea—in 2021 or any other year.
Will the lack of a cover letter kill your chance for a job interview? Probably not, in many cases, but why take the risk by not doing one? You might wonder if employers ever read cover letters, but you could increase the odds in your favor if an employer does read your cover letter and likes some of the information it presents.
Some employers care about cover letters, some don’t, and others are on the fence about it. A hiring manager might care—if the letter showed clear relevance to his or her opening, a real sense of interest in the job and the company. It’s one more chance to make a positive impression. As long as you write a cover letter that provides high-quality content, submitting it can’t hurt and might help.
Is it okay to apply without a cover letter?
You can apply without a cover letter if you choose, but you miss the opportunity to reinforce the impact of your résumé. When you put a lot of care into creating a great résumé, it makes sense to add a well-developed cover letter to the mix. Just make sure you tie it clearly to the job posting you’re submitting for. Show the employer you took time to pay attention to their needs.
When something potentially useful isn’t hard to do and you choose not to do it, that says something about how seriously you take your career success. It’s in your best interests to give this action reasonable thought.
What are some cover letter tips for senior-level job seekers or those launching themselves on that career path?
As with all cover letters, tip number one is to communicate an unmistakable message of value. That’s one piece of career advice I invariably give to my clients. What’s more, show the recipient that you understand some of the key issues the company might be facing and have proven your ability to deal well with such issues in your career.
Here are a few more cover letter tips for you to consider:
- Use success stories—briefly. If you have two or three success stories in your résumé that could be expanded on or otherwise tied in for the letter, without merely repeating what’s in the résumé, it reinforces your value message and could spark additional interest.
- Remember that conciseness is a “virtue”! A long, drawn-out recitation of all your qualifications going back 25 or 30 years does not endear you to employers. In fact, they won’t read it! Make your point and make it quickly.
- Put the employer’s interests first, yours second. Yes, you’re the one who wants the job, but the employer must know you care about delivering results to the company. Hint: Don’t lead off with what you’re after; strike a chord with the employer first.
- Pat attention to job description information, but don’t stop there. Do some research on the company before you write your cover letter. What’s their current situation, the competitive landscape they operate in, and so on?
- Write with confidence but not arrogance. Let the employer know you believe you will be a valuable asset to them, but don’t overdo it. For example, unless you’re Muhammad Ali, your letter probably shouldn’t say, “I am the greatest!”
Why should job seekers submit a cover letter even if a job posting or online application doesn’t require it?
Even if a posting doesn’t specify a cover letter or you suspect employers don’t read cover letters, send one anyway. As noted earlier, you can make points for your desirability as a candidate when you take advantage of that opportunity to give added weight to your résumé.
In the case where a job posting specifically requires a cover letter, failing to send one suggests you can’t follow simple instructions. If you’re a savvy job seeker, you avoid making slip-ups like that!
What do career experts say are the best ways to get hiring managers to read cover letters?
You need to make the letter inviting to read—both in professional appearance and, more importantly, in the employer-focused content it contains. I recommend following the “3 Cs”—clear, concise, and compelling. Don’t leave the employer guessing about why you’re sending the letter, what response you’re hoping for, and the value you can bring to the organization. And don’t make it so long that it puts the reader to sleep just looking at it!
How can cover letters positively or negatively influence your career path or ability to get a job interview?
A carefully written cover letter can positively influence your ability to get a job interview, by giving the employer a stronger impression of you and your potential value to them. A badly done letter would be worse than no letter at all! It could damage the impression you’ve established with your résumé.
Whether a letter would have much effect on your career path as a whole seems less likely—unless the letter is either very good or very bad.
If you would like to discuss how I can help you in your job search, let’s connect!