Are Cover Letters Still Necessary?

A classic cover letter mistake has long been not bothering to send one. Call it a sin of omission. I’m OK with this because, as a recruiter, I almost never read cover letters. I find the resume a meatier, more comprehensive read than most cover letters.

You can find opinions a-go-go on the necessity of cover letters. Sadly, there’s not much hard data backing up either the pro or con positions. I was curious, so I decided to look for some good research on the topic.

I found three reliable studies from the past twelve years. They indicate that it’s a good idea to write a cover letter, but the most recent study shows the cover letter losing steam with recruiters. Here’s the scoop:

Cover Letter Research Now: Omission Can Be a Cover Letter Mistake

A 2014 SHRM survey of HR professionals found that only 22% of respondents think applicants make a mistake by omitting cover letters from their job applications. That number represents a huge downshift from the 2009 and 2003 findings described below. The cover letter might be dying!

Small business HR professionals valued cover letters more than HR professionals in larger organizations.

Government HR professionals valued cover letters more than private company HR professionals.


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