Are cover letters necessary in 2020?

are cover letters necessary

Are cover letters necessary to land a job in 2020? A survey of hiring decision-makers asked this question, and here’s what they found.

Everyone hates writing cover letters. Thank goodness they’re no longer required to land a job these days. Well…not exactly. Sorry.

Yes, you should always write a cover letter

ResumeLab surveyed 200 hiring decision-makers, including in-house hiring managers, HR professionals, and external recruiters, to determine if cover letters are necessary to land a job in 2020. And they found that cover letters are, indeed, still a significant part of your job application package.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said that a cover letter is important in decision-making. Another 83% said that a great cover letter could land candidates an interview even if their resume isn’t good enough.

In other words, “writing a cover letter can help you make up for flaws in your resume in more than 8 out of 10 cases.”

Even when a cover letter is not required, 74% of recruitment decision-makers prefer to receive them, and 77% of recruiters will prefer candidates who include one. Also, 77% of hiring respondents said they would read the cover letter even if it weren’t required. (Interestingly, a slightly smaller number, when a cover letter is needed, only 74% of respondents said they would read it.)

Even when the job says the cover letter is optional, they still expect one

On a slightly irritating note: 72% of recruiters still hope for cover letters even if the job ad states they’re optional, which is not surprising but is a bit disingenuous – why not just make it a requirement?

When a cover letter is required for a job posting, and you fail to attach one, only 13% of respondents said they would process your application.

A majority of job candidates aren’t bothering with the cover letter

Now, here is the exciting part (to me, anyway): most candidates aren’t sending cover letters. When a cover letter is optional, only 35% of candidates include one, and when it is required, only 38% of candidates include one! No matter what the job ad says, 6 out of 10 candidates don’t write a cover letter. That seems crazy to me.

Why is a cover letter necessary? Respondents said they are useful for the following purposes:

  • Explaining the motivation to join the company (63%)
  • Describing career objectives (50%)
  • Explaining the reasons for changing careers (50%)
  • Explaining employment gaps (49%)
  • Highlighting professional achievements (47%)

So, write the cover letter!

The takeaway here is kind of what we’ve always said: Even though there’s a pretty good chance nobody is going to read it, you still should write a cover letter because someone might read it.

The reality is that most big companies now use software to scan resumes for top applicants, and only a few flagged as a good fit for the position will be seen by human eyes. Only then will someone look at your cover letter. But when that happens, a good cover letter can vault you over the other candidates and get you the interview.

If a job is essential to you, you should do everything possible to get it, or the hiring manager will see that you don’t care that much and move on to the next candidate. Yes, you’ll always find someone who got a job without a cover letter, but that doesn’t mean you will. I wouldn’t take a chance.

For tips on writing your cover letter, check this out.

Find a job you love

Looking for better work?

Explore job postings, create alerts, save resumes, and more on CareerBeacon.

You may also like: