Although some career experts are convinced that a good cover letter is the key to landing a job interview, others claim that the cover letter is dead. Modern alternatives to the cover letter, such as an in-depth LinkedIn profile, can fulfill the same purpose of opening doors for you. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should use a cover letter or let your online profile speak for you.
The first and most important factor in the decision over whether to send a cover letter is this: did the employer request a cover letter in the job posting? If you have been asked to send a cover letter, then you ignore this instruction at your peril. You don't want to give your potential employer the impression that you can't follow a simple instruction.
An increasing number of job postings do not ask for a cover letter. Does this mean that hiring managers are no longer interested in reading them? According to Spencer Taylor, who has 10 years of experience of working as a headhunter on Wall Street, most recruiters in that industry do not read cover letters any more. They don't have the time to read a whole page that explains why the candidate wants the job. If your resume doesn't communicate that message clearly, then you simply don't get an interview.
However, even this recruitment expert admits that some older recruiters still expect to receive a cover letter from each applicant. Whereas Generation X and the Millennials see the cover letter as old-fashioned, recruiters from the Boomer generation are used to receiving them. In light of this difference of opinion, it is worth finding out something about the atmosphere in the company to which you are submitting your job application. Dynamic, modern companies staffed mostly with young go-getters are less likely to welcome a cover letter than more traditional enterprises.
What are the alternatives to a cover letter? In recent years, many job seekers have compressed the information that might traditionally have appeared in a cover letter into a summary section at the top of their resume. However, space on a resume is limited. Some job seekers assume that hiring managers are likely to look them up online, so they focus on turning their LinkedIn profile into a kind of online cover letter. On LinkedIn, you can tell your career story, using not only text but also images and videos.
Should you send a cover letter with your next job application? The answer, frustratingly, is "it depends." Some companies still ask for a cover letter, whereas others prefer to look at how candidates presents themselves in their resumes and online. The cover letter isn't dead yet, but it is no longer as universal as it once was.
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