Does Anyone Actually Read Cover Letters?


Where do I start on the topic of Cover Letters? Some people in the HR/Recruiting community write long essays on the proper form and content of a cover letter. Some have even monetized cover letters and offer writing services to people in need. But my advice to people in search of a job is, Don’t Bother! The fact is that I never read cover letters. When I receive one, I feel sort of bad for the person who sent it because I assume that they put considerable time and effort into it. It is a complete waste of everyone’s time. I have “read” tens of thousands of resumes and have gotten to the point that I can determine in a glance whether someone has what I am looking for. I assume that anyone putting a cover letter together has something to explain, and I’d rather judge for myself before reading propaganda.

Your time and energy should be toward spent making your resume STELLAR to SELL your as a successful, valuable change-agent that a company needs. Don’t waste your time drafting a fluffy cover letter when no one cares. If your resume is solid, you won’t need a cover letter and honestly if your resume isn’t solid, a cover letter isn’t going to help you that much. Resume’s can be a valuable tool to advance your career, so put your time and effort into crafting a world-class resume and skip the cover letter altogether.

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10 thoughts on “Does Anyone Actually Read Cover Letters?

  1. NO! No one reads cover letters, including me. Make your resume stellar and also tailor it to the position if possible. HR and hiring managers “skim” resumes, look for key words, work history and accomplishments. Make yourself stand out and show how you can bring value.

  2. Blimey! 3 of us agree over something that seems to get very different coverage elsewhere. Give a me the CV that covers the main points, highlights achievements, doesn’t get lost in details, avoids jargon and spelling mistakes, and you’re on a winner.

  3. Two questions for another day that I would appreciate your thoughts (future posts?) on at some point:

    1. Does the aesthetic of your resume/CV make a difference? (It has to me in hiring positions, but I would love your weigh-in.)

    2. Does a little bit of personality (e.g. humor, personal facts, etc.) make a difference in your resume? (I’m talking *just a pinch*.)

    Glad you agree on the cover letter part, too. I’m bookmarking this for future people that come to me for resume help.

    • Jonathan, Thanks for your remarks. The quick answer is “yes” and “no.” There are a few things that come into play on a resume apart from the content. Recruiters hate getting resumes as Pdf’s because their parsing software can’t extract the content like a Word document can. So, even though the pdf protects your look as you intended it, it is frustrating to a recruiter who just wants to quickly parse the content and add the resume to their ATS. (recruiter lingo for applicant tracking software) The issue is that if you send a resume as a Word doc. with tables, as soon as the recruiter parses it, it collapses and all the time and effort you put into the format are kaput. So, it really depends upon what medium you intend to use to present your resume. If you are going to do it in person, then aesthetically, you want it to look professional and elegant. You don’t want any clever fonts to distract people from the content which is the only reason you’ll ever get hired. If it is through a email, I actually like the look of a pdf and if it is worth it to me, I would ask for a Word version. So, my suggestion is to include it both as a pdf and word via email.

      As for personality, personality SELLS, but you have to be careful to be tasteful. It also depends somewhat what the role is. If it is a creative role versus a more traditional role. A dose of creativity or humor can be great, but you must be careful not to make a joke out of what may make or break your chance for landing a great job. I guess I would say, if you are funny and it comes naturally, then go for it. If you have to work at it, leave it out.

      Much success!

    • Jonathan. May I put in my tuppence-worth (sorry. UK phrase that probably doesn’t travel)?

      1. Aesthetics are important, but it’s more about layout than colour and bling. I see many CV’s that are almost a work of art – my best guess (and it’s usually proven on probing later on) is those are produced by CV writers – they’ve probably got bored!

      Font is, to an extent, important. Comic sans is an absolute no-no. Trebuchet is clean and modern.

      2. Personality is good. Something gentle under Interests like “Avoid golf and gardening at every opportunity” says a little something without turning it into a farce. Extracts from psychometrics can also be useful, human and objective.

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