It’s tough enough to craft your resume to make it through an applicant tracking system, let alone whip up the perfectly written, creative cover letter to go with it. And with the heavy reliance on social media and your personal brand as part of research into you as a candidate, you may be wondering if a cover letter is still important in your industry. The truth is, it really depends on who you ask.
We put out a LinkedIn poll a few weeks ago. The results came back mixed. Of the 143 people who voted, 31% said a cover letter is still important. 43% said not in their industry. 27% of people who voted said they don’t know if a cover letter is still important. Those votes came in from a range of different industries.
We posed the same question to our team. Only two of our recruiters said cover letters are essential for candidates in their industries. The rest said they are not something you need to worry about. But, if you do need to write one, here’s their advice for getting it right.
Tailor your letter to the role
Kevin Connors, who recruits in Wholesale, e Commerce and Retail industries, kept his advice short and sweet: tailor your cover letter to the job. Connors believes cover letters are “very important” if the candidate spells out how their experience aligns with the role they are applying for.
In the nonprofit world, David Burden said cover letters are expected. His advice, “Highlight one or two achievements that match the main expectations of the role. Then, discuss your fit with the organizational culture (if you know that) or talk about how you resonate with the company’s mission.”
Explain your value
In the Food and Beverage Manufacturing industry, Kasey Craven, said a cover letter is not important in his industry. What is important of course, is a resume that clearly lists your accomplishments and achievements. Craven did add though, “Cover letters could add some value if you are sending your resume directly to the hiring manager or HR Manager of a smaller/mid-size company, and need to explain who you are and maybe some things in your background (job changes, gaps, etc.).”
Dive deeper into your background
Alex Walter, who recruits for FDA regulated companies, also doesn’t believe a cover letter is particularly helpful in landing a role but adds there are always exceptions. “If there is something in your background that deserves further explanation but doesn’t necessarily belong on the resume proper (sabbaticals, deep detail on particular projects that are germane, etc.), a cover letter can be a good avenue to explain in more detail and elaborate on what good came from the circumstance,” said Walter.
Connect the dots
David Towsend recruits physicians. He says a candidate’s social media profiles and resume typically cover the “original” goals of the cover letter: conveying interest, pointing out connections to the company, and explaining one’s fit for the role. Yet, he’s a proponent if it makes sense. “I think there are still times where you don’t want to assume the symmetry will be obvious to a hiring authority. If you’re not working with a recruiter, adding a BRIEF cover letter would make sense,” said Townsend.
So, is a cover letter still important?
There’s a lot of advice out there, from a lot of different professional sources, from all different industries. Riley Phillips, our recruiter for Orthotics and Prosthetics, will also tell you there’s no need for a cover letter in his industry. Phillips added, “I give my clients in-depth information regarding the person “behind the resume”. I tell my candidates I will be their walking talking cover letter.”
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of those times where unfortunately, there’s not a one size fits all manual. So, do your industry research, start with the tips above, and if you need help, reach out, that’s why we’re here.