In my experience as a headhunter, I never once sent a candidate’s cover letter to any client, whether it was for an analyst-level or for a C-level role. Can you believe that? Well, it’s true.
It’s incredible to see so many universities, organizations, and “career coaches” talk about the importance of spending such an inordinate amount of time on outdated application materials. I would argue a large amount career coaching available is incorrect and inapplicable to most of today’s audience/recruitment practices. In fact, the recruitment process at companies are changing at such a rapid pace, these “old school” documents matter less and less.
Here are 3 Reasons Why Cover Letters Don’t Matter Anymore, and how you can create a modern day version to achieve better results.
1. Cover Letters have been replaced by emails, LinkedIn Inmails, referrals, and networking. In the pre-internet era, cover letters were written and submitted in conjunction with your CV, then physically mailed to the HR department who then had to rip open the envelope containing your application. Cover letters were meant to address your interest in a role, then discuss why and how you’re qualified and/or interested. This letter was only thrown in the application packet in the olden days to be polite instead of sending in a blind resume with no details on for what purpose or role it’s being submitted for.
In this modern era, where email/internet controls our communications, a convoluted physical letter is no longer necessary! And in 99% of cases, most hiring managers could care less. Yes, I repeat, no one will read that long multi-paragraphed essay you spent days tearing your hair out on. Your CV only gets 15 seconds before a hiring manager makes a decision. Therefore, there’s a slim to none chance, they’ll also be interested in your cover letter.
2. Today’s consumer and general public rely on a simple Google/LinkedIn search, publications/research database or your own website to find information on you. A cover letter therefore is less telling of who you really are because it doesn’t have as many functions as social media provides. A hiring manager is only interested in your resume, supplemented by your social media information. The resume has the nitty-gritty details of what they are interested in. Unless your resume is empty or limited, they may need to resort to look at your cover letter, which is not ideal – your resume should be filled with enough information to render the cover letter useless.
Social media provides a much more robust picture of who you are to the hiring entity, thus making it much more effective for an interviewer to spend time looking that up instead of reading a static letter. LinkedIn has a picture, some common connections/posts, and any other activities you’ve engaged with. That is much more helpful to a hiring manager to get some background info on you. Not to mention, the wealth of information Google provides. In a second, I can find the good, bad, and the ugly on you. Much more effective than to spend a minute reading your cover letter that sounds the same as everyone else’s!
3. Cover letters are documents that all look alike, and a remnant of the past. Hiring Managers don’t want to waste their time reading blocks of text when there is no guarantee of that information being unique, informative, or necessary.
The only potential exception is campus recruiting. Arguably, since your resume is so light/brief as a student, they’ll have to look at your cover letter for more information on your grammar and communication style.
TIP: Unfortunately, because most recruiting systems are outdated, there still will be a field for you to input your cover letter (even though it will be completely ignored 99% of the time). Your cover letter should be short, sweet, and direct. State what role you’re interested, a quick line about what you admire about the company/role. Another quick line about your relevant experience which company doing a similar role. End it with your eagerness to hear back and your availability to be reached with your contact details.
Instead of stressing too much about cover letters, spend more time writing email/LinkedIn Inmail intros and statements that are similarly short, but more importantly, polite, engaging, and laudatory. What can someone get from networking with you? Is it flattery, mentor/mentee relationship, subcontractor support, a potential apprentice/employee, a useful connection/increased network? If there is nothing to be gained, you’re unlikely to receive a response.
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