If you don’t know what a cover letter is yet, it likely won’t be long before you have to write one yourself. Cover letters are the bane of every college student or recent graduate’s existence. They cause unneeded stress and are mostly unnecessary.
Cover letters are often required when you apply to a job or an internship. They accompany your resume and basically serve as an introduction to yourself and why you would be a good fit for the company or organization in question.
They started to become common in the mid 20th century when white collar jobs became more popular. They were supposed to show who the person was behind the resume and expand on certain points in the resume. There have been many workshops, books, classes, and more all about writing the perfect cover letter. In fact, there’s a whole industry of helping people improve their job applications.
Cover letters are still usually required if you want a chance at an interview. However, they are unnecessary and not worth the effort. Cover letters are typically a little less than a page single space. Considering that writing about oneself is often pretty difficult, this can take time. You also have to have a different letter for each application. While you may mention the same things, you usually have to emphasize certain skill sets to seem a perfect fit for the job.
Cover letters add so much more stress to the job application process. You’ve already worked so hard to format your resume and now you have to spend extra time on trying to advertise yourself without sounding too braggadocious. Cover letters are essentially a performance by candidates to make themselves seem enthusiastic about the job.
In fact, most HR professionals say they don’t read them, or they at least don’t make much of a difference as to whether a candidate gets an interview or not. If they aren’t being read, why are job candidates working so hard to write them?
It’s important to know why job recruiters don’t read them. One reason is that they don’t have enough time. Another reason is that cover letters often just repeat what’s in the resume with a little personal twist. Job recruiters don’t really want to know about the person behind the resume. They want someone who can do the job.
Some may say that cover letters can show a person’s writing skills but in that case, just ask the candidate to provide writing samples. It’s time that we stop this weird charade when applying to jobs. If job recruiters want to get to know the person behind the resume or for the person to expand on their resume, they can ask candidates to provide this information during the interview.
Thankfully some companies have started making cover letters more optional in applications. However, many people still feel pressured to write them to make themselves stand out among other applicants. Hopefully companies will stop asking for them and simply make the application process less stressful and cluttered for both recruiters and applicants.