Are Cover Letters Necessary in the Modern Job Market?

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Career Advice

With technological advancements and changing workplace norms, the recruitment process has also undergone transformations. The role of the cover letter, a longstanding staple for hiring managers, has been questioned.

Initially conceived as a crucial element of job applications, its relevance has become a topic of discussion, especially given the recent pandemic’s impacts and the integration of technology in hiring methods.

So, are cover letters still relevant or are they as outdated as fax machines?


The Genesis and Utility of Cover Letters

Cover letters have been an intrinsic part of job applications since the 1950s. For many years, they were the heartfelt letter of introduction, a personal note accompanying the more factual resume.

The cover letter was more than just a formality; it was a space for applicants to articulate their passion for the job, explain career transitions, or provide context that a resume alone couldn’t convey. It was the human voice amid a document filled with bullet points, dates, and titles.

The value of cover letters during these times was indisputable. They acted as a lens, focusing a recruiter’s attention on the reasons an applicant was not just suitable, but exceptional. Cover letters gave insight into an individual’s character, showcasing their research about the company, their understanding of the role, and their unique value proposition.

It was, in many ways, an elevator pitch—a chance to persuade, to connect, and to stand out.


The Post-Pandemic and Technological Shift of The Cover Letter

Post-COVID-19, the job market saw a seismic shift. Remote work, virtual interviews, and online networking events became the new normal.

With new trends like “Quiet Quitting”, platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed made it easier for applicants to apply en masse, with just a click. The volume of applications skyrocketed, leaving hiring managers and recruiters inundated.

This deluge of applications, coupled with technology like the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which scans and ranks resumes based on keywords, has indeed cast a shadow on the traditional cover letter.

Some argue that in this fast-paced, digitized age, there’s no time to peruse cover letters, especially when a resume and LinkedIn profile can provide a snapshot of an applicant’s career. Moreover, a survey conducted in 2021 found that nearly 70% of hiring managers don’t consider cover letters crucial, emphasizing the resume’s dominance in the selection process.

Yet, it’s important to note that the technological and pandemic-induced shifts haven’t entirely negated the cover letter’s value. While they might not hold universal importance, in certain industries and for specific roles, especially those demanding strong communication skills or a deep connection with a company’s ethos, cover letters can still be the distinguishing factor.


The Case for Cover Letters by TSERGAS Human Capital

Despite the shifting landscape, TSERGAS Human Capital remains an ardent believer in the power and importance of cover letters.

First Impressions Matter: A cover letter often serves as the first introduction, setting the tone for the candidate’s application. It offers the initial insight into the applicant’s personality, motivation, and communication skills, establishing the initial rapport between the candidate and the company or the HR professional sifting through applications.

Customization is Key: While every candidate might have a unique skill set, a generic cover letter does them a disservice. TSERGAS HC emphasizes the significance of tailoring each cover letter, highlighting how a candidate’s distinct abilities fit perfectly with the specific role they’re applying for.

Clarity Over Clichés: One common pitfall in writing cover letters is the reliance on overused phrases and broad generalizations. Instead of standing out, such letters blend into the sea of applications. TSERGAS HC encourages applicants to be concise and genuine, shedding the fluff and focusing on authentic experiences and aspirations.

Aligning with the Company’s Vision: Beyond just qualifications, a successful candidate often resonates with the company’s mission and values. TSERGAS HC recommends that cover letters incorporate a succinct bio, emphasizing why the candidate believes their personal ethos aligns seamlessly with that of the company.

Perfection in Presentation: While this might seem elementary, the number of cover letters marred by typos, grammatical errors, and other oversights is astounding. TSERGAS HC underlines the importance of meticulous proofreading. After all, if attention to detail is compromised in the very document trying to make a first impression, it raises questions about the candidate’s overall professionalism.


A Renaissance in Recruitment: The Case for Cover Letters

While technology has made certain aspects of job hunting more streamlined, the art of personal communication remains irreplaceable. Cover letters have historically bridged the gap between an impersonal list of achievements and a candidate’s authentic voice.

In an age where hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes might match a job’s technical criteria, it’s the nuanced narratives, the passion, and the alignment with a company’s ethos that can set one apart. So, while cover letters might not be the staple they once were, they paint a richer, more vibrant picture of potential employees, serving as a testament to their dedication, alignment, personality and uniqueness.