Do you still need a cover letter?

By Tom Evans

It’s 2018, so many job seekers may be wondering why or even if you have to attach a cover letter to your CV anymore.

This can be a tricky question, given that sometimes it comes down to the specific recruitment processes of a company, or even the individual preferences of the hiring manager. However, the following guide will help you to see whether you still need a cover letter in 2018:

The old days

In the past, when most job vacancies were advertised in shop windows and the local newspaper, having a cover letter attached to your ol’ curriculum vitae was a necessity. Your application would most likely be physically posted to potential employers, so you would need to clearly state who you are, what you were applying for, and why you should be chosen.

During the move into the early digital age, job seekers were still being recommended to attach a cover letter to resumes, mostly because that was just what you did. Yet, while HR processes have changed over the years, many positions will still require you to submit a cover letter alongside your CV.

More applications, more problems

Did you know that, on average, a hiring manager only looks at your CV for about six seconds? Of course, while this definitely highlights the importance of taking on board quality CV writing advice, it reflects the very real need for HR professionals to be able to get through large numbers of job applications as quickly as possible.

After all, hiring managers are not trying to be callous, but improvements in technology have resulted in an increased ease for people to apply to more jobs than ever before. While a job seeker used to have to take their time to write out or type their resume and cover letter on a typewriter, people can now apply at the click of a button.

There is software out there to help HR professionals with handling submissions to their job vacancies, yet they are still a time-strapped bunch. To this end, a finely written cover letter can help a resume to stand out from the pack.

When it’s vital

Of course, there are occasions when a cover letter is absolutely necessary. It goes without saying that if you come across an ad on your job search that asks for one, you should submit it along with your CV.

If you’re applying for an opportunity in person, with someone you know, or for one that has been set up for you by a friend, it would likely be a great idea to pin your cover letter to the front of your CV. You should probably mention these circumstances clearly, so that you stand out from the other candidates and remind the hiring manager of your connection.

The stats

If your application doesn’t match the criteria above, and the cover letter section is optional, it might be best to take the time to submit one anyway. This is borne out by the data, which shows that over a quarter (26%) of recruiters will read your cover letter, so it is a great way to get across more information about yourself.

You may also want to spruce up on how to write a CV, as while 49% of HR managers did report in one study that they considered a cover letter as the second best way to give your resume a boost, they listed customising your CV as number one. Thankfully, a professional CV writing service, such as CV Knowhow, could help you with this.

What else is there?

Cover letters, as stated above, still play a major role in the job seeker’s arsenal. In fact, Dan Whitlegg, content editor at Agency Central, had this bit of careers advice:

“Cover letters are still an important part of the recruitment process. The problem? Candidates seldom spend the same time and energy on writing a cover letter as they do on their CV.

A strong cover letter will differentiate a candidate and place them within the context of the business they’re applying to. Unfortunately, this is often a missed opportunity, with many applicants choosing to submit a generic document – if they submit one at all.”

So, while it will pay to use Dan’s advice and take the time to produce a quality cover letter, how else are you meant to stand out from the job searching pack?

Well, for one, your social-media profile could help to augment it, with the likes of LinkedIn often doing this already. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that 84% of recruiters will take to social-media sites to find candidates, so make sure that your profile isn’t letting you down.

Personal connections

Solid recommendations from previous employers are also a great way to showcase your experience and reliability, as positive relationships with former bosses are always a plus. Any CV template will have a references section due to its importance, but it may help to take a look at a few CV examples as well. These may give you some ideas on how to weave snippets from glowing recommendations into your resume and cover letter. Meanwhile, LinkedIn also has its own recommendations section, which allows you to ask for references from former employers, colleagues, and even clients.

In all, the importance of cover letters to your job search makes it seem like they’re set to stick around. As such, any CV maker should probably spend a little time to create a good one, just in case. It might not be called upon during your job search for every vacancy, but the cover letter is still a great tool that helps to get the job done.

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