Are Cover Letters Necessary? Do *You* Really Need It?

Do you need a cover letter for a resume? How important are cover letters? Should the cover letter be in the email or attached? Find your answers here.

Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Are Cover Letters Necessary? Do *You* Really Need It?

Summary: Do you need a cover letter for a resume? Recruiters are paying less and less attention to cover letters. But it’s still important to give them a serious thought when sending out your application. Plus, the traditionally understood cover letter may need to be slightly redefined. Read on to find out more.


Should you submit a cover letter? Do you need a cover letter when applying online?


Truth is—


You’re not the only one troubled.


Fret not.


This article answers the following questions:

  • Is a cover letter necessary?
  • Do you need a cover letter?
  • How important are cover letters and when do you need them?
  • Should the cover letter be in the email or attached?


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1. Is a Cover Letter Needed?


That’s a tough one.


Mostly, because the hiring landscape is changing pretty fast.


In the past, it was expected of a candidate to send a resume and cover letter.


In an envelope.


Fast forward to the present day:


On average, a recruiter spends only 7 seconds looking at a resume. A typical corporate job opening attracts as many as 250+ candidates. 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATSs to scan resumes before a human sees any of them.


Are you getting the picture?


The pace of life has sped up. Significantly.




It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that almost 80% of organizations don’t pay attention to whether or not you attach a cover letter.


Yes. You got it right.


Only 20% of private sector hiring managers consider cover letters important.


So, ask yourself the next question.


2. Do I Need a Cover Letter?


Here’s a thought experiment:


Imagine you’re applying for 5 really cool jobs. Each of them would help your career hit a new high.




You’ve just learned only one in five hiring managers would be interested in reading your cover letter.


The question is:


How do you decide which hiring manager would like to read your cover letter?


Truth is:


You never know.




Better safe than sorry.




You need a cover letter even if it’s optional.


According to the Job Seeker Nation Study 2018, almost 50% of applicants choose to send a cover letter along with their job application.




Give the hiring manager what they expect. Even if you overdeliver.


A cover letter will always boost your chances of landing a job interview and thus, getting that job.


3. How Important Is a Cover Letter?


Just two words:


Very important.


For one thing, the concept of introducing yourself to the employer will never go out of fashion. More on that in the last section.


For another, a well-written cover letter sets you apart from the lot. Now, isn’t it the very idea behind sending a job application in the first place?


And remember—


Forewarned is forearmed.


The last thing you want the recruiter or hiring manager to do is catch you off guard.


So, have your cover letter ready even if it is not requested.


If you decide not to send a cover letter with your resume, you still may want to bring one for an interview and present it when asked to.


4. When Do You Need a Cover Letter?




Let’s flip the question.


When shouldn’t you submit a cover letter?


  • When the employer or job ad specifically asks you not to.
  • When your cover letter sucks big time.




Not sending a cover letter at all is better than submitting a badly-written one.




When is a cover letter needed?


You should submit a cover letter when:

  • The job offer requires you to submit one.
  • You’ve been requested to write one.
  • You’re sending your application directly to a recruiter or hiring manager.
  • You’ve been recommended for the position.
  • You know something about the job.
  • You’re a career changer and want to add some explanations.
  • There’s a career gap on your resume that you’d like to explain.


Alrighty then.


Everything’s clear.


Or... is it?


Is there anything we might have missed along the way?




The question that must not remain unanswered is:


5. Should I Attach a Cover Letter or Write it in the Email?


Here’s the thing:


Most of the time the only attachment that counts is the resume.




Before a hiring manager decides to cast a glance at yours, you need to convince them it’s worth their time.


It follows that your best bet is to:


Include your cover letter in the message body.


In fact, this is exactly the direction in which cover letters have been evolving.




Such a strategy makes perfect sense if you consider what intent the cover letter used to serve historically, that is:

  • To introduce the human being behind the accomplishments.


And introduce is the keyword here.


Not really convincing?


Take another look at the results of the Job Seeker Nation Study 2018.


This is how the respondents applied to their current or most recent positions:

  • 25% applied via LinkedIn
  • 38% sent applications directly to employee or recruiter
  • 32% applied directly through a company website


It’s not just about sending a resume.




Each of these three avenues requires you to write:


A personalized introduction that resonates with the recruiter.


And honestly—


Doesn’t it sound like a definition of a cover letter?




Before you finally finish your email cover letter and hit that send button, consider this:


How about attaching your cover letter anyway?


After all, even if it’s not meant to be read, it might get printed out.


It can read exactly the same as the email body. Just make sure you format your cover letter as a business letter to match your resume style.


No idea how to go about writing your cover letter?


It's easy—


You just need to learn how to start a cover letter, what to include in your cover letter, and how to end it.


And don't not forget to address your cover letter appropriately.


Key Points


Cover letters are necessary because:

  • Some recruiters and hiring managers still expect them. Better safe than sorry.
  • They will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • They offer you a way to introduce yourself to the recruiter.
  • A well-written cover letter is hard evidence of your communication skills.
  • If you’re a career changer, you’ll be able to say why you’re a great fit.
  • You can explain your career gaps.


What are your thoughts? How important is a cover letter when applying online to you? Do you think you should submit a cover letter if it’s optional? Give us a shout out in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Career Expert
Maciej Duszynski is a certified professional resume writer (CPRW), career advice writer and a resume expert at ResumeLab. With over 8 years of experience in recruitment, hiring, and training, Maciej shares insider HR knowledge to equip every job seeker with professional advice to nail the job hunt. His insights have been featured by the Chicago Tribune, SparkPeople, Toggl, Referral Rock, and Databox, among others. Maciej has helped job candidates at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members, to thrive in their job. His mission is to help you find the right opportunity and create a job application that gets you the career you deserve. Maciej holds a Master’s degree in English with a specialization in communication and education management.

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