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Is the Cover Letter Dead?

Believe it or not, this is a hot topic among recruiters, candidates, and career development professionals. Here’s my take on the question.

If a job advertisement requires a cover letter, then, of course, you need to supply one.

If a cover letter is optional, or there is no mention of a cover letter, do you still include one with your application? I would say yes, but keep a few things in mind.

Your resume MUST stand alone.  If there is anything you intend to include in the cover letter that you can put in your resume, put it in the resume.  Why?

  • Most companies use some kind of initial screen to eliminate as many applications as possible.  The cover letter will most likely not be included in this initial screen, just the resume.
  • Not everyone reads cover letters. Some hiring managers will read the cover letter first, then the resume.  Some will scan the resume, then, if they’re still interested, they’ll take a look at the cover letter.  Others will only review the resume.

A cover letter will distinguish you from all the candidates who didn’t include one.  But, if you include a cover letter, it better be darn good.

  • No typos, no spelling errors, no grammar errors.  One of the most common errors I see: Using “lead” for the past tense of “to lead”.  The past tense is “led”:  I led a cross-departmental team …
  • If at all possible, address it to a real person.  Use LinkedIn, the company website, and/or your network to find out who is the hiring manager, and address it to that person.
  • Don’t repeat what’s already in the resume.
  • Don’t use the same cover letter for every job.

Need help with your cover letter of other career marketing tools, such as your resume, LinkedIn profile, reference list, or branding statement?  Contact Debra Franke, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Alumni Career Programs, at 215-991-3582 or