Is a Cover Letter Necessary?

Mar 25, 2021 | Job Search Help

Most people assume that a cover letter is required when applying for a position you are interested in. They are great tools to help bridge the gap between an introduction to your resume. But is a cover letter really necessary?

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Believe it or not, there are situations where it is not necessary.

The simple truth is that you have 3.5 to 6 seconds to capture the attention of any recruiter. Most times they jump straight to your resume to check your skills and background even if there is a cover letter attached. This is why their use is on the decline.

For this reason, you should not spend time on one unless it is necessary. Your time is better spent on getting your resume right. This blog will help you understand when it is necessary and when it is not so you know when you can maximize your time on preparing your resume.


When is a Cover Letter Necessary?

Here are some situations where writing one is necessary.

The Job Posting Says it is Required

Some job postings explicitly say ‘applicants should apply with their resume and cover letter’. Other postings will specifically have a field for attaching a resume and another specific field for attaching a cover letter. It is necessary to include one in these situations.

You Are Applying Directly to a Person

When the job posting lists the Recruiter’s name or directs you to apply directly via email to a specific recruiter, you should write one. In these cases, it should be addressed specifically to that person. Doing so will show attentiveness to detail for the organization you are applying to. This demonstrates your commitment to learning about their organization and will stand out to the Recruiter.


When is a Cover Letter not Necessary?

There are situations where writing one is not required, as well.

The Online Platform Does Not Allow a Cover Letter to be Attached

Sometimes when you are applying online, the website or platform being used includes a place to attach only a resume. They don’t include a specific place for a cover letter. In these cases, it is not necessary to include one.

Now, if there is a place to ‘attach all files’ without specific mention of resume or cover letter, then it should be part of the files you upload. If it is vague about the types of files they expect, it is recommended to include one in your uploaded files.

If the Job Posting Specifically Says Not to

There are a few job postings that specifically say ‘resume only’. In these rare cases, take the hint and save yourself the time. Writing one is not necessary!

If You Do Not Have Time

When you’ve been focusing on your resume, you may run out of time to craft an effective cover letter. If you find yourself short on time and need to rush to quickly get one together, you are better off sending your resume without it. No cover letter is better than a bad one, even if the Job Posting indicates that attaching one is necessary based on the reasons above.

In these cases, instead of missing out on the job opportunity completely, you are better off making sure your resume is going to capture the attention of the reader immediately. If you can display the right skill set, they may still call you for an interview.


The Bottom Line

If a cover letter is necessary, you should do one. Many recruiters will bypass the cover letter and focus on your resume. However, they will notice if there is no cover letter where they are expecting to see one.

Do one if it is required.


Tips for Your Cover Letter

Here are some tips for an effective cover letter in situations where it is required.

Don’t Be Generic

Every cover letter should be tailored specifically to the organization you are applying to. Sending the same generic one to every organization you apply to does not demonstrate attention to detail or that you are specifically interested in the jobs you are applying for. Each one you write should be written specifically for each unique opportunity you are applying for.

You should mention the role and company by name, and specifically, outline why you would be a good fit for the role based on the skills and responsibilities listed in the specific job posting.

Don’t Just Repeat Your Resume

Ther is your opportunity to tell the Recruiter something they may not otherwise see in your resume. You could expand on something in your resume. Or perhaps use it to introduce new examples that are not already in your resume. Either way, you want to be more deliberate than repeating your resume.

Follow a Concise Structure

Your letter’s structure should be focused, to the point, and concise. You should outline how you heard about the job, what you can contribute to the job, your availability, and how to reach you. This is an effective way to communicate with the Recruiter.


Writing a cover letter is usually necessary, although their use is on the decline.

However, if you find yourself in a situation where it is not necessary, your time and efforts are best spent focusing on the resume.

If you need any help navigating the job application process, I am here to help!

Tim Dyck
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