Professional Development
Apps / Career development

Cover letters aren’t dead — but they are evolving

Are cover letters still necessary? We asked our Slack community for feedback on one of a jobseekers' most hated chores.

Your email introduction may be the most important part of your job application. (Photo by picjumbocom on Pexels)
You’ve completed your resume and are ready to start applying for jobs. Do you need to spend an hour or more on multiple cover letters?

Essentially a relic of a time when resumes were mailed or faxed, a traditional paper cover letter is basically a full-page document that showcases your qualifications.

The traditional format is strict: a header with your name, contact information and date, along with a salutation, three body paragraphs, a thank you and a signature. And it should be specific to the job you’re applying for, highlighting the reasons you are a good choice for this specific position.

Some, as we found on Twitter, see it as an unnecessary form of unpaid labor that shouldn’t be required anymore – but that won’t get you out of writing one if a job listing requires it.

We posed the question “cover letter or no cover letter?” on Technical.ly’s public Slack, and found that, for at least some applicants, if the description doesn’t specify a cover letter requirement, they will opt out and not do one.

“Only if invited or solicited during the process,” replied software developer Colin Dean.

Jobseekers can just skip job listings that require a cover letter, but the fact is, conceptually, the cover letter does have value to a lot of hiring managers – and a good one might even get you a second look if you’re resume isn’t the strongest.

“I include it [as an applicant] because it’s a way to show my interest,” said community member Holly. “However, as an employer, I wouldn’t dock for lack of a cover letter, especially if their resume was strong and told the story. If an applicant’s resume seemed a little weak, but they had an amazing cover letter, it would put them back in the pile — I’d at least want to talk to them.”

Hiring managers aren’t necessarily looking for a traditional cover letter, however. A bright spot for cover letter haters is that in the digital age, your email often functions as your cover letter — and an effective “cover email” doesn’t have to be a three-paragraph essay, thanks to the more succinct, mobile-friendly rules of email etiquette.

“From a hiring point of view, a good cover letter or email can catch my eye and make someone stand out,” said Amy Morais, the director of digital products for a marketing company. “So I wouldn’t dock someone for not having one, and if their resume or work samples are strong, they would also get my interest, but it can definitely help. They can be short though. One of the best ones I got was a two- or three-sentence email. Like Holly said, it made me want to talk to them.”

Our own Julie Zeglen, the managing editor of Technical.ly, takes it a step further on the hiring side, specifically asking applicants to keep it short and sweet:

“I started asking for just a short note of why they’re interested in the role in an email with their resume attached, and it’s way easier on everyone involved,” Zeglen said. “We’ll talk more in our first-round interview!”

Bottom line

A cover letter may or may not be mandatory, but some kind of introduction when you’re emailing your resume is a must.

And if you are required to write a traditional cover letter, resist the temptation to use one of the many cut-and-paste templates on the internet. Give them a good, honest assessment of why you think you would be a good fit in your own words (and, more importantly, your own voice).

Want to join the conversation? Join our public Slack!

Before you go...

Please consider supporting Technical.ly to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, Technical.ly has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services
Engagement

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!

Trending

Philly startup Burro aims to revolutionize farming with robots

Philly is ranked one of the world’s best places to found a startup, climbing to No. 25 globally

Duolingo’s viral taco shop brought in an eye-popping $700,000 last year

Ghost Robotics is landing a $240M exit, dodging months of protests over military uses

Technically Media