Recruiter Question #3: Cover Letters

OK, I may be stacking these questions too close together but let's see what happens. This one's from Erich, the artist currently known as eRock: seems very few recruiters read cover letters, is it really necessary to include one with your resume?

Comments (12)

  1. Derek Bigelow says:

    I sure hope everyone looks at cover letters, I spend a lot of time on those things, and I’m sure a lot of other people do too.  

    I personally think recruiters have it backwards.  Cover letters say more about a recruit than resumes in my opinion.  The amount of work is more noticeable in a cover letter, as in personalization and amount of thought.  Resumes can just be thrown together and spell-checked with relative ease, but a cover letter takes much more effort to make it great.

    My question is, do recruiters look at objective statments?

  2. Heather’s getting into recruiters’ heads to help jobseekers. You’ll want to look at their answers to her questions. What is the first thing you look at on a candidate’s resume? What are common red flags on a resume? What will…

  3. correcto mundo!!

    Few are read because most tend to be sappy, boring and unoriginal.  If they are pithy and original, or iconoclastic-like, the author is usually dismissed as being a whacko, so most job seekers take the safe road, and pen a perfunctory-like cover sheet that is meaningless and often adds no value.

    robert edward cenek

  4. Wine-Oh says:

    I think a cover letter is necessary. But keep it brief and simple. It shows how well the person writes and gives a glimpse into their communication style.

  5. The resume is much more important to me, but I do read the cover letter.  Especially if the resume isn’t tailored to the specific position, the cover letter absolutely must be.  I’d say yes, you need to include one.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Derek- I thikn that we recruiters may disappoint you with the answers to this questions. I personally find most cover letters fluffy and only refer ti them if I have a question on the resume (gaps in employment, etc).

    robert edward cenek- I’m with you on that! The gimicky cover letters are like bad pick up lines in a bar.

    Gary-what about if there’s a short e-mail but not an official "cover letter". I prefer the quick e-mails with the resumes attached sans cover letter. Would that meet your needs based on what you said above?

  7. Simone says:

    Here’s a story involving cover letters that I must tell:

    A resume from a promising candidate was turned into me with lipstick smeared on the cover. It bothered me so much that I had to know which of the five people who handled the paper itself was responsible. I eventually got a confession from one of the girls. She told me that she had gone, ahem, "downtown", with a bald but beautiful coworker and ended up passing on the wrong copy. Of course I was turned off, but he was so cute I couldn’t blame her! She kept her job with a reprimand.

    This was the last time I passed paper around the office.

  8. vicki70 says:

    I do a cover letter 30% of the time – just because I think it might be necessary (hey, ya never know). However, it seems like everyone here is 50/50 about its true importance…

  9. Doug says:

    Hate to say it, but I rarely spend much time with a cover letters. They rarely "say" anything of any value and frankly I have found them to be a pitfall for candidates. Too often a stellar background of skills and experience is downgraded due to spelling or syntax errors in a cover letter.  I too prefer a quick email with the resume attached.  I prefer my candidates to gear their resumes to the positions they are interested in, highlighting appropriate experiences.  Cover letters, in my world, just a waste of paper.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Doug, I agree. I do think that sometimes the candidates reveal too much personal info in the cover letter. Circumstances that impact their candidacy are one thing (even then, it’s on a need-to-know basis), but I have experienced some candidates unburdening themselves of personal issues in their cover letter. For example, if you aren’t available for work until a certain date, then state that fact. If the reason why is work related (you feel that you need to finish a project you committed to would be an example), then feel free to share it. If the reason is of a personal nature, you don’t need to share that information. Recruiters assume that all candidates have lives away from work, but blurring the lines between what is personal and professional, especially so early in the process, can be seen as a red flag.

  11. Drea says:

    I prefer a quick email with a resume attachment. Something as simple as "I’m interested in learning more abour your position for a Marketing Analyst advertised on My resume is attached." is sufficient. A targeted note over a formal/standardized cover letter is much more effective. You want to be considerate on the reader’s time, as well. A cover letter attachment is too much and unlikely to be opened.

    BUT! An attached resume without an email note or an attached cover letter sends a message of spam, not sincere interest in applying for the job.

  12. eROCK says:

    Thanks Heather!

    Sorry I haven’t been around much, I’m in UNIX class this week (yawn!).

    It appears most recruiters don’t read  cover letters.  Since that’s the case, do the recruiters here think differently of a candidate if they don’t have a cover letter with their resume (even if the recruiter doesn’t plan on reading it)?


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