Cover Letters Can Increase Chances of Getting the Job

Even when cover letters aren’t required, 72% of recruiters expect them
A man and a woman in a job interview

If you think sending a cover letter is an outdated concept, think again. Technology may have transformed the way we send resumes and conduct interviews, but new research suggests that cover letters are as important as ever to landing a job.

Resume-building software provider ResumeLab surveyed 200 recruiters, hiring managers and human resources specialists to see how much influence cover letters had in their hiring decisions. They found that a cover letter can play a huge role in not only getting an interview, but in getting a job offer.

Most of the survey respondents — 83% — said cover letters were important in making their hiring decisions. In some cases, a good cover letter could keep a job applicant in the running for a position that they might otherwise have been ruled out for. For example, 83% of the hiring decision-makers surveyed said a great cover letter could convince them to schedule an interview with an applicant, even if the applicant’s resume wasn’t good enough to stand on its own.

Cover letters optional yet preferable

While many employers look favorably upon cover letters, not all companies require them.

  • For jobs in which employees apply directly, such as via email, 64% of respondents require cover letters.
  • For jobs advertised via online tools such as job boards or career sites, 61% of respondents require cover letters.

The survey also suggests that job candidates don’t like to send cover letters. In fact, when a job ad says the cover letter is optional, only 35% of applicants choose to send a cover letter. Likewise when a job ad says a cover letter is required, only 38% of candidates send one, the survey found.

But even if a job doesn’t require a cover letter, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include one. Nearly three-fourths — 74% — of respondents said they prefer job applications come in with cover letters that are set apart from the resume. On top of that, 77% of recruiters said they would give preference to a candidate who sent a cover letter, even if they weren’t required to send it. In addition, a majority of recruiters — 72% — expect to receive cover letters, even if the job ad explicitly states that cover letters are optional.

While hiring decision-makers appear to agree that cover letters are important, they give a variety of reasons for how cover letters add the most value:

  • 63% said cover letters are useful in explaining an applicant’s motivation for joining the company
  • 50% said they help to describe the applicant’s career objectives
  • 50% said cover letters are important because they can explain why an applicant is changing jobs or careers
  • 49% said they are valuable because they can explain employment gaps
  • 47% said they are important for spotlighting an applicant’s professional achievements

If you’re looking for a job, make yourself stand out from the crowd by going above and beyond what is required. There are a number of ways you can improve your job application, such as researching the company and the hiring manager. A cover letter can also allow you to share strengths about yourself that might not come across to a hiring manager through your resume.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.