The cover letter is dead.
That’s the conclusion from a survey of 2,000 workers released Tuesday by recruiting software company Jobvite. The company found that roughly half (47%) of Americans did not send a cover letter when they applied for the job they’re currently doing. And among workers 18-22 that number jumps to 58%.
Plus, there’s some evidence that hiring managers don’t care much about cover letters. A survey from OfficeTeam found that about one in 10 senior managers said that cover letters were not valuable “at all” when evaluating a candidate, and only about one in five said they were “very valuable.” And some job postings now note that cover letters are “optional.”
But career experts say that despite all of this, it’s still a good idea for most of us to send a cover letter along with your resume. In most cases “cover letters are a significant part of creating a successful application,” says career coach Carlota Zimmerman. And career coach Roy Cohen notes that “companies use the cover letter as a way to screen out candidates who are either dabbling, not all that passionate about the job, or who have qualifications that may not be readily apparent from a review of the resume.”
While you may get a job without a cover letter, you risk, by not sending one, of having your application immediately thrown in the trash. Adds Cohen, “there is no guarantee that it will make a difference, but if you are selected it can enhance how you are viewed and your level of interest.”
Call to Career founder Cheryl Palmer notes that a cover letter “gives the applicant the opportunity to add information that may not necessarily go on the resume — if for example, an applicant is willing to relocate at his or her own expense, this can be addressed in the cover letter.” Another plus: “The cover letter is more easily customizable than the resume is. Employers like to see that the applicant is interested in the specific job that he or she is applying for; not just that the applicant wants a job, any job. By tailoring the cover letter to the specific job posting, the applicant has the opportunity to make a good first impression.”
Still, there are exceptions to the send-a-cover letter rule. “The federal government, for example, does not require cover letters are part of the application process,” says Palmer. “Also, in some instances, when job seekers apply online there is no opportunity to submit a cover letter.” And, Zimmerman says that when you’re being actively recruited by a company, you may not need to send one.