The importance of cover letters continues to be debated among job search experts and job seekers alike. We question whether they have any impact at all . . . or whether they are even read.
First a little history.
According to Stephen Lurie in an article in The Atlantic:
“Leonardo da Vinci is said to have created the first CV when applying for a job from the Duke of Milan.”
“Starting in the 1930s, the idea of a “cover letter” became popularly used for a descriptive document that would precede some form of previously unaccompanied data.”
“In its original incarnation, the “cover letter” provides an explanation for what can’t be found in the raw substance. Dotted throughout the 30’s and 40’s are other examples of the “cover letter” as in introduction to business, economic, or political matters—particularly between associates. Much like today’s cover letters, the original intent was to paint a picture that might not easily emerge from the denser material that was, well, under cover.”
“The first use of “cover letter” in the context of employment is on September 23, 1956. It’s in a New York Times classified ad for Dutch Boy Paints for an opening to be an industrial paint chemist.”
Cover letters always seem to generate discussion
Ever since cover letters mainstreamed in the 1950’s, they have generated discussion.
Anytime I post anything about cover letters, pretty much anywhere, conversation ensues.
Not surprisingly, I received a number of comments on a post of mine on LinkedIn, referring to my blog article, Do I Really Need a Cover Letter for My Executive Resume?
My LinkedIn update with that article received more than 5,500 views as of this writing.
The Importance of Cover Letters from Several Experts
Here are some of the comments my LinkedIn update received:
Job Search Strategist Virginia Franco
“There’s literally no downside to having them – and a great letter can make all the difference.”
Social Media Strategist Isabella Krieg
“If you can say that it won’t hurt your chances, you should totally dive in! What’s to say it won’t help your chances when there is someone with the exact same resume as you, but no cover letter? I think a cover letter also shows you’re willing to take that extra step. Regardless of if you know it’ll benefit you or not. Something employers should look for.”
Job Search Strategist Madeline Mann
“I’ve seen not having one ruin someone’s chances. More than anything, it’s an opportunity for an executive to explain why they are passionate about the company they are pursuing.”
Recruiter Angela Watts
“While there are certain positions where I don’t read them, I always do if writing or presenting will be involved in the role. Cover letters also give insights into personality and organization skills. Like you said, “not having a cover letter may ruin your chances”. So why not write one?
Career Coach Shelley Piedmont
“The cover letter can add specifics to your case for being hired at a particular company that the resume can only cover in a bullet point. That being said, please take the time and care with a cover letter. I have seen beautiful resumes that are not matched with well-written cover letters (typos, grammatical errors, etc.). It becomes pretty obvious which is the true gauge of the writing skills of the individual.”
Career Coach Tami Campbell
“I often hear from job seekers that “no one sends cover letters anymore.” Exactly why you want to send one. The goal is not to do what everyone else is doing but to stand out. A well written, customized, addressed-to-an-actual-person cover letter can do just that for you.”
Career Consultant Juliana Rabbi
“I always tell my clients it’s better to have one, than to NOT have one. You stop the recruitment process at some point because you have to send one and you don’t have it done. It’s a typical case of ‘better safe than sorry’, right?”
Executive coach Phillip Wong
“The cover letter is just like a handshake. It helps to introduce yourself with a firm introduction and with a smile. Written well the cover letter can provide a concise headline and a great lead-in to the CV. Both need to be congruent and consistent in language, tone and layout. Be professional, it will get you noticed.”