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Are Cover Letters Still Necessary?

Standing out during the job search can take a little work. For decades and decades one of the standard ways job seekers made a good first impression and shared key employability skills has been the cover letter. But, are cover letters necessary?

At the the inaugural “Job Ready or Not?” event, hosted by Bryant & Stratton College Online, leading HR and hiring managers from top companies discussed how this is a tricky area for job seekers because there is not a right or wrong answer. It really comes down to knowing the company you are applying to and what they prefer. Some larger companies that use automatic screening tools skip the cover letter completely and focus efforts on finding the right keywords on a resume to move candidates forward in the process.

At Large Companies “I don't really see the value in cover letters anymore, or at least not as much as I used to,” said Heather Tinguely, Program Manager of Global Talent Labs at Microsoft. “Many companies [including Microsoft] just store the resume itself and either discard the cover letter or only search the CVs.” Ms. Tinguely’s advice is to make sure that whatever is included in your cover letter is also represented in the your resume. That way when hiring managers are searching your resume they are not missing out on key information.

At Small Companies But, some smaller companies still value cover letters as a way to gauge the strength of a candidate. Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies, said that she still looks at candidates’ cover letters before their resumes. When she advises people on their cover letters she encourages them to tell a story. “I say, ‘Tell me at least two accomplishment stories that are relevant to [the employer]. Tell me the situation, the action you took, and the results of those actions, and really relate them to the company and the position," said Ms. Huhman.

Know Your Industry The ultimate answer to the question of “cover letter or not?” is truly knowing the company as well as your own industry. Jessica Lee, Director of Digital Talent for Marriott International said that she put a lot of value in cover letters when she was recruiting for PR or communications positions. “I needed to know that you could write, and write really well. So a cover letter was super important to me,” said Ms. Lee.

An Opportunity to Explain Ms. Lee also added that cover letters can be a great way to explain any blips in your career path, like an extended absence from the professional world. "What if you haven't worked in 10 years? Maybe [a cover letter] is also an opportunity to begin filling in some of the gaps and explaining things that aren't really apparent,” said Ms. Lee. So as you are out there applying for jobs, stop and consider where the job is, your particular industry and the job requirements (if strong writing skills are important to the position then definitely include a cover letter) to determine whether a cover letter is necessary or not. Bryant & Stratton College Online is dedicated to helping students improve their employability skills and become job ready. Through outcomes-based education and career training, Bryant & Stratton College Online helps students learn the technical skills as well as the soft skills they’ll need to be successful in a career.

If you are interested in learning more about the online degree programs at Bryant & Stratton College Online, please call 1.888.447.3528 to speak with an admissions representative.


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