Job Search

Yes, You Need a Cover Letter

cover letter

You are still not getting it. If you really want a job, you need to write a decent cover letter.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, especially if you have been unemployed for a while. I understand finding a job can be difficult, and can be more so in certain industries, for older workers or for those who have been out of work for awhile.

But sometimes it is hard to believe how many job seekers still don’t understand the importance of a good cover letter. I hear from recruiters all the time about how job seekers continue to blow it.

It doesn’t make much sense. A cover letter might be the best weapon they have in their job search. Why aren’t they using it?

One employer, writing recently on LinkedIn, laid out what is a common scenario. Even after specifically asking all job applicants to include cover letters with their applications, Lauren Nelson, a Principal Consultant with Aesthetic Cogency, a business development and communications consulting firm, said most folks didn’t do it.

I’d say that more than 60% of applicants don’t include a cover letter at all. Another 20% include a cover letter that simply informs me they’ve attached their resume. Another 10% include a cover letter that is clearly a template they use for any old job application. Only 10% of the total applicant pool takes the time to actually write a cover letter that answers the questions I’m asking.

That means that 90% of the people who want me to hire them are falling flat on their face. Talk about a terrible first impression. If your cover letter leaves much (or everything) to be desired, I don’t care if your resume is dozens pages of awards and sheer greatness. You’ve lost me.

One of the problems is that job seekers confuse the ability to do a job with the ability to get a job. They are not the same. You may be perfectly qualified for the job, exactly what the company is looking for. But you need to be just as good–or better–at the hunt.

Employers, of course, want you to have the skills and experience to do a job. But generally that is only one aspect of why they hire someone. They also have to feel two important things: that you will fit it, and that you are passionate about the job.

Your cover letter is the place to demonstrate both those things. Writing a letter that gives employers a sense of your personality and your enthusiasm is how you get a job.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.