How Important Is A Cover Letter?

Job hunters regularly ask how important it is to have a strong cover letter compared to having a winning resume. How much time should a candidate devote to it?

In a December 2013 article on the American Journalism Review website, Adrianne Flynn, career development professional, states that “Cover letters are the first introduction. If it doesn’t grab a hiring [manager]’s attention in a good way, your presentation is already a fail.” (Source:)

Insider Advice on Cover Letters

Flynn quotes two recruiters that offer top insider advice. One states, “Just a few simple sentences, in active voice, on why you want to work for me. Don’t be too clever.” Another recruiter reveals that an “interesting, lively cover letter” can mean a “second look” for a candidate with a resume that’s a little weak.

Why Cover Letters Matter

Jodi Glickman, author of the book Great on the Job told Harvard Business review in February 2014 that “Not sending a cover letter is a sign of laziness. It’s akin to making spelling and grammar mistakes in your résumé. You just don’t do it.”

Duke Law School encourages its students to concentrate attention on their cover letters and suggests that “in today’s highly competitive job market, a creative, thoughtfully composed, well-written cover letter can make a significant impact on hiring manager to move your resume from the tottering stack of many to the well-balanced stack of a few.”

The career professionals at Duke Law also state that “Most importantly, your cover letter should be absolutely perfect, with no typographical errors or misspellings.” That is one reason many savvy job seekers utilize professional writers like those employed by

Make It Personal

Duke Law further tells its students that cover letters are “an opportunity to distinguish their credentials, attributes, and experience.”

Keep in mind that personal doesn’t mean unprofessional.  A writer at Harvard Business Review suggests that job seekers should not “try to be funny” in their cover letters because “too often it falls flat.” (Source:)

Some final tips

Harvard Law coaches its students to “go into detail about your background and skills instead of reiterating what is already on your resume.” (Source:)

Harvard Law suggests “cover letters should be about one full page” and recommend an introductory paragraph, middle paragraphs that are written to “stress those work experiences that are most relevant to the position” and a closing paragraph that has your contact information.

Follow the tips above and you should have a cover letter that not only does a great job of promoting you–it will also get you noticed by recruiters and hiring managers.