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58% of Workers Say Cover Letters Are Unnecessary—You Might Want to Write One Anyway

Twenty20 | Agron 91

For decades, cover letters have been used by hiring managers to gauge whether or not someone is right for a role. However, many of today's job applicants find cover letters to be unnecessary and time-consuming. And with the current leverage employees have in the job market, cover letters may soon be a thing of the past.

A recent poll from Fishbowl by Glassdoor, which surveyed over 13,000 professionals, found that 58% think cover letters are redundant. Only 10% of professionals say they're necessary when applying for a job.

According to Tyler Murphy, a Glassdoor career trends expert, cover letters have historically been favored by hiring managers because they explain a candidate's characteristics in a way that resumes don't.

"Cover letters are an extension of an applicant's resume allowing them to explain why they're applying for the role and why they're interested in this employer," Murphy tells CNBC Make It. "A cover letter is a great opportunity to expand on relevant experiences and catch the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager to hopefully secure an interview."

CNBC Make It spoke with Murphy to learn more about the future of cover letters and what you should do if a job posting asks for them.

Bye-bye, cover letters

Fishbowl by Glassdoor found that recruiter's opinions were split about cover letters – some say they'll go the extra mile to read them, while others say they flat-out hate them. Though recruiters may be more likely to read them for a more prominent role, the majority of respondents find cover letters obsolete.

"The future of this historical hiring component looks grim," Murphy says. "However, while companies requiring cover letters may dwindle, we expect many employers will allow the candidate to decide for themselves whether they want to submit one."

Is optional really optional?

As companies have begun to stray away from the cover letter requirement, many job postings do have the option for candidates to submit them. Though it's an extra step and time-consuming, Murphy says it may be worth the consideration.

"When deciding whether to send a cover letter, it's always best to weigh the pros and cons. On the downside, a cover letter can take time away from applying to other jobs and might feel unnecessary, but on the upside, a cover letter can help you stand out against the competition," Murphy says.

"If 58% of professionals say cover letters aren't necessary when applying to jobs, then a recruiter might perk up when they see you've gone above and beyond to send one."

How to write the perfect cover letter

According to Murphy, If you do decide to include a cover letter with your resume, it's important to keep these three things in mind:

Customize

Cover letters aren't one size fits all, Murphy explains. "Always make sure to customize a cover letter and tailor it for the specific company and role. Make sure to cite specific responsibilities outlined in the job description and clarify why your own experiences are a good match."

Be brief

Though a recruiter may go out of their way to read your cover letter, they don't want to spend all day on it. Job applicants should try to make their point in as few words as possible.

"There's no minimum word count for a successful cover letter, so be concise and keep in mind 'quality over quantity," Murphy advises. "Recruiters will likely only spend a few seconds reviewing a cover letter, so make sure to catch their attention and get to the point."

Show enthusiasm

Murphy says that if you're excited about a job opportunity, don't be afraid to convey it – it could work in your favor.

"Finally, and most importantly, if you're applying for your dream job or company, then let them know in the cover letter. After all, a cover letter is an opportunity to share your passion for the role, company or industry and to make it clear why you're the best fit."

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